Sunday September 19, 2021

Taliban gain control of first provincial capital

The Taliban also claimed to kill a senior Afghan govt official in retaliation to the air strikes
August 06, 2021
Photo: AFP.
Photo: AFP.

KABUL: The Taliban have captured their first provincial capital to coincide with the departure of foreign troops, a senior official confirmed Friday, a significant psychological blow to a government desperately defending a string of cities against the insurgents.

"The city of Zaranj, the provincial capital of Nimroz, has fallen to the Taliban," Roh Gul Khairzad, the deputy governor, told AFP.

She said the city -- in southwest Afghanistan near the Iranian border -- had fallen "without a fight", and social media showed clips of Taliban fighters roaming the streets, being cheered by residents.

The veracity of the videos could not immediately be confirmed.

Fighting in Afghanistan's long-running conflict has intensified since May when foreign forces began the final stage of a withdrawal due to be completed later this month.

The Taliban already control large portions of the countryside and are now challenging government forces in several provincial capitals.

Taliban claim killing senior govt official

The fall of Zaranj comes the same day the Taliban claimed responsibility for killing the head of the Afghan government's media information department, Dawa Khan Menapal. 

Just days earlier, the Taliban had warned of targetting senior administration figures in retaliation for increased air strikes.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the death, with spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid sending a message to media saying "he was killed in a special attack carried out by mujahideen".