US launches airstrikes as Taliban attack Afghan city

Afghan security personnel secure a road as smoke billows from the site of suicide attack as an ongoing attack between Afghan security force and suicide attackers in Jalalabad on July 31, 2018. (File photo: AFP)
Updated 10 August 2018
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US launches airstrikes as Taliban attack Afghan city

  • Intense gunbattles raged Friday morning and several shops had burned
  • US forces launched airstrikes to counter the assault on an Afghan provincial capital

KABUL: US forces launched airstrikes Friday to counter a major Taliban assault on an Afghan provincial capital, where terrified residents cowered in their homes amid explosions and gunfire as security forces try to beat the insurgents back.
Officials said Afghan special forces were also being deployed to the southeastern city of Ghazni after the latest attempt by the Taliban to capture an urban centre, with the assault coming as pressure builds on the insurgents to enter peace talks.
At least one Afghan soldier has been killed and seven others wounded in the fighting, provincial governor spokesman Arif Noori said.
Civilian houses and army checkpoints have come under mortar attack and the bodies of dozens of Taliban fighters are in the streets, he added.
The Taliban began the attack late Thursday from several positions around the city, provincial police chief Farid Ahmad Mashal said.
Residents who spoke to AFP said power has been cut to the area since fighting erupted, with heavy gunfire ringing out across the city and a government building set on fire.
"We are scared for our life. The Taliban are roaming everywhere in and around the city," shopkeeper Mohammad Haleem told AFP.
Another resident, Yasan, said the Taliban were using loudspeakers at the mosque to warn residents to stay in their homes.
"Heavy explosions and gunfire can be heard. We are terrified," Yasan wrote in a Facebook post.
The US said that the city remained under government control.
"U.S. Forces responded with close-air support this morning in #Ghazni," the official account for US Forces in Afghanistan tweeted Friday.
"Afghan forces held their ground and maintain control of all govt. centers. Another failed attempt by Taliban to seize terrain, while creating strategically inconsequential headlines," it continued.
A spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani said the Taliban had suffered heavy casualties in the onslaught and confirmed the airstrikes.
"Commando forces are on their way, and black hawks are hitting important enemy targets," wrote Shahhussain Murtazawi in a post on social media.
Police special forces have also been deployed to help block the Taliban advance on the city, an Afghan security official said.
The Taliban issued a statement claiming to have captured "most of the government buildings inside the city".
"So far 140 enemy forces have been killed or wounded," the group said.
The Taliban frequently exaggerate their battlefield gains and downplay losses incurred during fighting.


UK PM May seeks Brexit fix in talks with rivals

Updated 17 January 2019
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UK PM May seeks Brexit fix in talks with rivals

  • May reached out to rival parties night shortly after surviving a no-confidence vote
  • May’s olive branch offer came after a hectic 24 hours that saw her Brexit deal defeated

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May scrambled to put together a new Brexit strategy on Thursday with cross-party talks after MPs sparked political turmoil by rejecting her previous agreement with the EU.
May reached out to rival parties on Wednesday night shortly after surviving a no-confidence vote, hoping to hammer out a Brexit fix that she could present to parliament on Monday.
Just over two months remain before the world’s fifth-largest economy is due to leave the EU, its closest trading partner, after 46 years.
But the island nation is still embroiled in many of the same arguments that were raging when voters defied government warnings and voted to leave in a 2016 referendum.
May’s olive branch offer came after a hectic 24 hours that saw her Brexit deal defeated by a historic margin in one vote and her government then cling on to power in a second one, by a narrow margin of 325 to 306.
May conceded in a Wednesday night television address to the nation that Britons might find the political upheaval “unsettling.”
She called on the opposition Labour party and its smaller pro-EU allies “to put self-interest aside” and attempt to find a solution to end the deadlock.
“The government approaches these meetings in a constructive spirit and I urge others to do the same,” she said.

Immediate hurdles

But May ran into immediate hurdles as top MPs set out demands and conditions contradictory to the government’s current stance.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he would only sit down with May if she ruled out the possibility of a “no-deal Brexit.”
That scenario would see trade barriers go up overnight as existing agreements between Britain and the EU expire on March 29.
May’s meetings late Wednesday with top MPs from the pro-EU Liberal Democratic Party and the Scottish and Welsh nationalist parties also yielded fresh demands.
The Scottish National Party (SNP) is trying to rule out “no-deal” and secure a second referendum, which could only be held if Brexit is postponed.
“For any discussion between your government and the SNP to be meaningful, these options must be on the table,” SNP parliament leader Ian Blackford said in a letter to May released after their meeting.
But Liberal Democrat chief Vince Cable said May showed a strong desire to engage with her parliamentary foes.
“I think in the current state of crisis that is a positive,” Cable told BBC Radio.

Brexit principles

May herself hinted on Wednesday that Brexit might be postponed if London rallies around a single set of proposals that it could present to the other 27 EU leaders.
She told parliament that Brussels would allow this “if it was clear that there was a plan toward moving toward an agreed deal.”
The British pound has rallied over the course of the week on expectations of a delay to Brexit.
Such a postponement would stop the UK immediately crashing out of the world’s largest single market.
But May has so far stuck to two Brexit principles that — if broken — could see more members of her own Conservative party revolt: limiting EU migration and pursuing an independent trade policy.
Both of those red lines are at odds with opposition hopes for membership of an EU customs union or its single market.
“We can’t stay in the current EU customs union,” Conservative party chairman Brandon Lewis told BBC Radio.