Key Afghan city turned into a ‘ghost town’ by deadly battles


Associated Press

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN

Hundreds of people have fled four days of fierce fighting between Afghan forces and the Taliban over the key provincial capital of Ghazni that has killed about 120 security forces and civilians, the defense minister and witnesses said Monday.

Nearly 200 insurgents, many of them foreigners, have been killed, the government said.

Between the civilians have left the city and those too fearful to venture from their homes into the streets, “Ghazni has become a ghost town,” said Ghulam Mustafa, who made it to neighboring Maidan Wardak province with 14 of his relatives.

“The city became so dangerous,” the 60-year-old Mustafa told The Associated Press while stopped briefly at a checkpoint where police searched for wounded Taliban fighters.

The Taliban’s multipronged assault, which began Friday, overwhelmed Ghazni’s defenses and allowed insurgents to capture several parts of it in a major show of force. The Taliban pushed deep into the strategic city about 75 miles from the capital, Kabul.

The United States has carried out airstrikes and sent military advisers to aid Afghan forces in the city of 270,000 people. The fall of Ghazni, which is the capital of the province of the same name, would be an important victory for the Taliban, cutting Highway One, a key route linking Kabul to the southern provinces.

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