*KABUL - Afghan Taliban fighters have taken over control of the most important and strategic city of Afghanistan .*
*Taliban attacked Ghazni city in central Afghanistan early on Friday, burning police checkpoints, shelling houses and business areas and seizing control of parts of the city, officials said.*
US attack helicopters and drone aircraft provided government forces with air support. But as smoke rose across the city and witnesses reported bodies lying in the streets, and it was unclear how much of Ghazni was under government control.
Ghazni police chief General Farid Ahmad Mashal said the Taliban had seized several parts of the city, which has been under threat for months with heavy fighting in surrounding districts.
A statement from US military headquarters in Kabul said fighting had ceased by 8am (0330 GMT) and Afghan forces had held their ground and maintained control of all government centers.
“US forces responded with close-air support (US attack helicopters) and conducted one strike (drone). In addition, US aircraft conducted a show of presence,” Lt Col Martin O’Donnell, spokesperson for US Forces-Afghanistan said in an emailed statement.
However, the attack on a strategic city straddling the main route between the capital Kabul and southern Afghanistan demonstrated the Taliban’s strength just days before a possible ceasefire during this month’s Eid al-Adha holiday.