In pictures and latest on coordinated Taliban attack on Ghazni city

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Lt. Col. Martin O'Donnell, a spokesman for USA forces in Afghanistan, said American forces and US attack helicopters had assisted Afghan troops in pushing back the Taliban during the night's multiple attacks in Ghazni.

MoI deputy spokesman Nursrat Rahimi told reporters in Kabul that the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces are in full lead of the security of Ghazni city.

A brazen and bloody overnight assault Friday by the Taliban on a key provincial capital in central Afghanistan has increased pressure on US -backed Afghan forces that are withering under relentless attacks, prompting President Ashraf Ghani to call an emergency meeting of his security officials.

The defence ministry in Kabul said the attackers had been beaten back but were still present in one area of the city and had occupied civilian houses, from where they were still keeping up occasional fire on security forces clearing the area. He feared that there were more wounded who could not make it to the hospital because the city was shut down and ambulances were being sent out.

According to the officials, at least 26 security personnel are among those wounded during the clashes.

The overnight attack in the southeastern city of Ghazni, the capital of a province with the same name, also wounded at least 20 members of the security forces, said Baz Mohammad Hemat, the administrator of the Ghazni city hospital.

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Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, asserted that 46 Afghan soldiers died in the clashes at the base and a number of checkpoints and "not killed in Taliban detention centers".

USA attack helicopters and drone aircraft provided government forces with air support.

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'Initial reports indicate minimal Afghan security force casualties, ' the United States spokesman said, adding that American forces deployed attack helicopters and conducted a drone strike in the response.

The residents said airstrikes also targeted Taliban's positions.

A statement from U.S. military headquarters in Kabul said fighting had ceased this morning and Afghan forces had held their ground and maintained control of all government centres.

The attack underlines the heavy losses still being suffered by security forces as they fight the Taliban insurgents.

Safiullah, a resident of Ghazni City, said the Taliban assailants climbed a marketplace soon after entering the city and started attacking the police headquarters from there.

The attack came amid growing hopes of talks to end 17 years of war in Afghanistan and less than two weeks before the Eid al-Adha festival, when the Western-backed government in Kabul had been considering offering a ceasefire. Ghazni has been under threat from Taliban fighters for months.

The Taliban have stepped up attacks across the country since North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the United States formally ended their combat mission in 2014, and have seized control of several districts. "In addition, U.S. aircraft conducted a show of presence", Lt Col. Martin O'Donnell, spokesman for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, said in an emailed statement. The Taliban have rebuffed offers of negotiations with the government but have held one preliminary round of direct talks with Alice Wells, Washington's top diplomat for South and Central Asia, including Afghanistan.

Gannon reported from Islamabad.

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