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Fighting between Afghan and Taliban forces to control a road in the province of Ghazni

AFGHANISTAN (OBSERVATORY) – Afghan security forces have killed at least 31 Taliban insurgents with US air strikes in Ghazni province as Afghan troops are protecting a major highway, officials said on Saturday.

“The gunmen were planning to take control of a main road and they attacked many security checkpoints,” provincial governor Mohammad Aref Nuri said.

“With the help of the US Air Force, Taliban militants have been forced to retreat from areas near the Ghazni-Paktika highway, but the road is still closed because of the heavy damage inflicted by the Taliban,” he said.

Two civilians were killed and four injured during the clashes when a mortar round landed on a house in the Andar district, 153 km southwest of the capital, Kabul.

In a separate incident, two gunmen were killed when explosions occurred on the highway in Ghazni.

The Taliban confirmed the clashes. But spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid gave conflicting figures to the number of dead and injured.

Mujahid said the clashes killed nine Afghan soldiers and a Taliban fighter. He said 10 Afghan soldiers and three Taliban fighters were wounded in the battle while trying to control the Andar district.