Taliban capture regional capital - Afghan officials

A city in southwestern Afghanistan has become the country’s first provincial capital to fall to the Taliban in recent years, officials told the BBC.

Two sources said the insurgents had captured Zaranj, in Nimroz province, on Friday afternoon. It has not been officially confirmed.

It comes as the Taliban continue to make rapid advances in the country, as foreign troops withdraw.

They have taken swathes of countryside and are now targeting key cities.

Other provincial capitals under pressure include Herat in the west and Lashkar Gah in the south.

Zaranj is a major trading hub near the border with Iran. After capturing surrounding districts, the militants had been making a sustained attempt to capture the city.

A government source told the BBC that fighting was still happening around the National Directorate of Security office.

An unnamed spokesperson for Nimroz’s police told Reuters news agency that the Taliban had been able to capture the city because of a lack of reinforcements from the government.

Reports said the insurgents had also taken the airport, in what would be a major blow to government forces.

Pictures posted on social media showed civilians looting items from government buildings.

The capture of Zaranj would add to the momentum of the Taliban, who have been launching a major offensive across the country in recent months as US forces withdrew after 20 years of military operations.

Earlier on Friday, the director of Afghanistan’s media and information centre was assassinated by Taliban militants in the capital, Kabul. The Taliban said Dawa Khan Menapal had been “punished for his deeds”.

By admin