Arezu neighborhood in Ghazni city

Taliban overrun military base in Ghazni city taking more than 20 soldiers as hostages 

After a two-week-long tight siege of a military base in Arezu neighborhood belonging to PD3 of Ghazni city, the Taliban overran the military base on Saturday afternoon, May 01, killing three security forces, wounding two soldiers, and taking more than 20 others as hostages, according to local sources.

A member of Ghazni Provincial Council, Abdul Jami Jami, confirmed to Kabul Now that the Taliban militants who launched attacks against the base from several directions have also taken all military equipment, including a Humvee, with them. Khaliqdad Akbari, another member of Ghazni Provincial Council, confirmed that the Taliban have taken 25 soldiers and army officers as hostages.

A local security source who spoke on condition of anonymity also confirmed that at least three army soldiers were killed or wounded in the Taliban attacks and more than 20 others have been taken as hostages.

Meanwhile, Mohammad Yassin Zia, the Army Chief of Staff, said during a joint press conference with other top security officials on Saturday, May 01, that the Taliban have overrun a security outpost manned with a total of 17 army, police soldiers, and operatives of the National Directorate of Security, not a military base. He confirmed that a number of security forces were killed in the attack but did not provide an exact number.

Mr. Zia did not comment about the abduction of more than 20 soldiers either, assuring that the outpost fall to the Taliban has not created a serious problem for the government.

The fighting between the government forces and the Taliban militants was going on until the evening of yesterday, May 01, in the area, according to Wahidullah Jumazadah, spokesperson for Ghazni governor. He added that the government forces launched ground and aerial operations against the insurgents around 02:00 PM of the same day, stressing that the military operation would continue until the whole neighborhood of Arezu is cleared from the presence of the Taliban militants.

On the other side, Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesperson for the Taliban, claimed that the militants have overrun a military base and a security outpost in Arezu neighborhood. He further confirmed that a number of government forces were killed and 23 others were taken hostage by the militants.

Moreover, a landmine planted by the Taliban militants exploded in the neighborhood around noon on the same day killing one child and wounding another one – the two children are siblings.

Arezu neighborhood is situated in the suburb of Ghazni city and a key highway connecting Ghazni to Paktika province is passing through it. The neighborhood has been under the Taliban siege since two weeks ago. It has come under repeated attacks by the Taliban militants over the last year. Head of Ghazni’s PD1, Hashim Khan Khalji, was wounded in a clash that erupted between the government forces and the Taliban on April 22.

However, Arezu is not the only neighborhood in the Ghazni city which becomes a battleground between the warring parties. In addition to it, the Taliban and security forces engage in a fire in other parts of the city as well.

Five districts are under Taliban siege

At least five districts of the southern Ghazni province are currently under a tightening siege by the Taliban militants. Qarabagh, Moqur, Ab Band, Gilan, and Khwaja Omari districts have recently witnessed deadly Taliban offensives.

Qarabagh district which lies 55 kilometers to the southwest of Ghazni city was hit by Taliban attacks three weeks earlier. The Taliban militants launched attacks from several directions on the district center making territorial progress close to the police headquarters and office of the district governor.

As many as 1,000 families have been displaced to Ghazni and Kabul cities.

Later, the militants launched offensives in Moqur district located 120 kilometers to the south-west of Ghazni city, Ab Band district lying 70 kilometers far from Ghazni city, and in Gilan which is situated 120 kilometers away from the city. Days later, the government forces announced that they have repelled all the Taliban attacks in the districts.

Most recently, the militant group also launched attacks against Khwaja Omari district which is located 16 kilometers to the north of Ghazni city. In their latest offensive, the militants attacked the office of the district governor on Friday night, April 30. The militants had gathered in areas surrounding the office of the district governor and occasionally fired at its building, said Ahmad Zia Yaqubi, district governor of Khwaja Omari. According to the district governor, the government forces have killed as many as 11 Taliban militants but they suffered no casualty. Moreover, on Friday, April 30, the Taliban militants exploded a bridge in the Noburja area of the district.

In addition to the besieged districts, a local security source confirmed to Kabul Now that out of 19 districts of Ghazni, four districts – Nawah, Giro, Rashidan, and Ajristan – are under the Taliban control. Moreover, the government has also relocated the local administrations of Waghaz, Khogyani, and Zana Khan districts to Ghazni city for security threats. Except for Jaghori, Malestan, and Nawur, the remaining districts are also under threat by the Taliban.

“The recent reshuffles in the leadership of Ghazni police has negatively impacted the security situation,” says the province’s councilman, Abdul Jami Jami, accusing lack of cooperation between the local and security institutions as the main reason behind security failures in the province.

This comes a week after a high-level delegation composed of acting defense and interior ministers as well as director of the National Directorate of Security led by the National Security Adviser, Hamdullah Mohib, visited Ghazni last Thursday. The local officials had urged the central government for launching a military operation in the province and providing the security and defense forces with further weapons and equipment.

The top security officials have promised to meet their demands.