Taliban travel to Uzbekistan for talks with officials

Intense fighting as Taliban presses to take Afghan city

The Taliban pushed deep into the strategic city about 120 kilometres (75 miles) from the capital, Kabul.

"A total of 50 Taliban insurgents under Taliban key commander Mullah Toofan laid down arms and surrendered to local authorities in Qadis district today morning", Amini told Xinhua. "The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces continue to hold their ground and maintain control of all government centers", he said.

Helmand is among the relatively volatile provinces in South of Afghanistan where the anti-government armed militants are actively operating in some of its districts and often carry out terrorist related activities.

The assault was a major show of force by the Taliban, who had infiltrated deep into the city and attacked from several directions.

"Communications networks and electricity supply are now down in the city, resulting in water shortages, and food is also reportedly running low", Haq said.

The first reports of the attacks surfaced on Friday, with local media reporting heavy losses for the Taliban, having lost over 100 militants.

Foreign troops have extended assistance along with air support in the fight against the militants.

Mr. Danish said at least 25 security forces had died in the fighting along with 150 Taliban fighters.

"The fact remains that the Taliban are unable to seize terrain and unable to match the Afghan security forces or our enablement, retreating once directly and decisively engaged", Lt Col Martin O'Donnell said.

Ghazni Police Chief Farid Ahmad Mashal said that the skirmishes were reported in Khogyani, Khwaja Omari, and Zanakhan areas- all of them situated on Ghazni's outskirts.

But information about who controlled the city was hard to confirm with power and mobile services cut to the area after the Taliban destroyed a telecommunications tower, according to Ghazni MP Shah Gul Rezaye.

Civilian houses and army checkpoints came under mortar attack and the bodies of dozens of Taliban fighters were in the streets, provincial governor spokesman Arif Noori said.

The Taliban, however, claimed victory saying their fighters were now in control of Ghazni after routing Afghan forces.

The Taliban claimed that during the four-day visit in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent, Taliban political chief Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai met with Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov as well as the country's presidential envoy for Afghanistan, Ismatilla Irgashev.

President Ashraf Ghani is said to be considering a cease-fire offer to the Taliban for the upcoming Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, which starts August 21.

Earlier this year, the USA sent more military advisers to Afghanistan.

Information for this article was contributed by Maamoun Youssef of The Associated Press.

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