Battle to control Panjshir Valley continues 7 killed in celebratory gunfire in Kabul

Tariq Saeed

Amid reports of DG ISI holding talks with the Taliban leadership in Kabul Saturday and Taliban claim to have taken over the city of Panjshir, the Taliban and the opposition forces led by Ahmad Masood were fighting on Saturday for control of the Panjshir Valley north of Kabul, the last province in Afghanistan holding out against the Islamist group, according to reports.

“The Taliban have been putting in their best to bring Panjshir under their complete control while thousands of fighters from regional militias and remnants of the old government’s forces that had massed under the leadership of Ahmad Masood, the son of late Mujahedeen commander Ahmad Shah Masood are also offering their last resistance not to lose Panjshir,” independent sources said.

The Taliban have earlier claimed that they seized the Panjshir valley, the last province of Afghanistan holding out against it.

“By the grace of Allah Almighty, we are in control of the entire Afghanistan. The troublemakers have been defeated and Panjshir is now under our command,” a Taliban commander said.

The Taliban have so far issued no public declaration that they had taken the valley, which resisted their rule when they were last in power in Kabul in 1996-2001.

This impression was also strengthened by the former Afghan Vice President Amrullah Saleh, one of the leaders of the opposition forces who said he was still in the valley.

However, Saleh admitted. “There is no doubt we are in a difficult situation as we are under the invasion by the Taliban yet we have held the ground and offering resistance.

A spokesman for the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan, which groups opposition forces loyal to Ahmad Masood, said Taliban forces reached the Darband heights on the border between Kapisa province and Panjshir but are yet to gain control of the region.

“The defense of the stronghold of Afghanistan is unbreakable,” Fahim Dashty claimed.
A Taliban source said fighting was continuing in Panjshir though the advance had been slowed by landmines placed on the road to the capital Bazarak and the provincial governor’s compound.

“Demining and offensives are both going on at the same
time and we will gain complete control of the entire Afghanistan in no time,” he said.

There are reports of heavy fighting and casualties in the valley, which is walled off by mountains except for a narrow entrance and had held out against Soviet occupation as well as the previous Taliban government that was ousted in 2001 with the sources saying the opposition was fast losing the ground and the Taliban gaining control of the strategic Panjsher was eminent in a day or so.

Agencies add: At least 17 people were killed in celebratory gunfire in Kabul, news agencies said on Saturday, after Taliban sources said their fighters had seized control of Panjshir, the last province in Afghanistan holding out against the group.

The Shamshad news agency said “aerial shooting” in Kabul on Friday killed 17 people and wounded 41. Tolo news agency gave a similar toll.

At least 14 people were injured in celebratory firing in Nangarhar province east of the capital, said Gulzada Sangar, spokesman for an area hospital in the provincial capital of Jalalabad.

The gunfire drew a rebuke from the main Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid.
“Avoid shooting in the air and thank God instead,” Mujahid said in a message on Twitter.

“The weapons and bullets given to you are public property. No one has the right to waste them. The bullets can also harm civilians, don’t shoot in vain,” he said.

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