Ashraf Ghani, Afghanistan’s president, has visited the embattled southeastern city of Ghazni, a week after the Taliban launched an attack and infiltrated deep into the key provincial capital.
The five-day battle with the Taliban in Ghazni killed at least 100 members of Afghan security forces and 35 civilians before calm was restored on Wednesday, while a UN report quoted “unverifiable numbers” that put the civilian death toll at more than 200.
Ghani met officials on Friday in Ghazni, a central Afghanistan city on the main highway linking the capital, Kabul, with the south, to assess security. He also met families of the victims.
In a speech, Ghani said greater security was needed around district capitals, as well as the provincial capital, and questioned the strength of defence trenches dug around vulnerable areas.
“I am here to help all those who have suffered losses, I am committed to build the city and also do everything to protect Ghazni,” Ghani said.
“Our soldiers have fought bravely and we stand committed to bringing peace,” he said.
In Kabul, the UN office for humanitarian assistance (OCHA) said fighting was continuing on Ghazni’s outskirts.
In its report, which was released late on Thursday, OCHA said water and electricity have yet to be restored in many areas of the city of 270,000 people.
Abdul Halim Noori, the head of the Afghan Red Crescent in Ghazni, said six of their teams are still sifting through the rubble in the city, searching for bodies.
So far, the aid group has retrieved 270 bodies but there was no breakdown or indication how many were Afghan security troops, Taliban fighters or civilians.
In one home, they found bodies of 11 members of a single family, Noori told The Associated Press.
Even though they were pushed back from the city, the Taliban still hold sway in much of Ghazni province.
Elsewhere in Afghanistan on Friday, the Taliban ambushed and killed five local police officers in northern Baghlan province, according to Ekramuddin Sarih, the provincial chief police.
He said the officers were patrolling on foot near their security post in the provincial capital of Puli Khumri.