KABUL – Taliban on Monday captured the sixth provincial Afghan capital as the group continues to make sweeping advances following the withdrawal of US-led foreign troops.
Reports said that Taliban entered Aybak, the capital of Samangan province, without a fight after community elders requested the officials to avoid violence following weeks of clashes on the outskirts.
The governor of Samangani accepted and pulled out all forces from the city, handing over it to insurgents, who are fighting since 2001.
A Taliban spokesman confirmed the city had been captured.
The Taliban tightened the noose around northern Afghanistan Sunday, capturing three more provincial capitals as they take their fight to the cities after seizing much of the countryside in recent months.
Kunduz, Sar-e-Pul and Taloqan in the north fell within hours of each other, lawmakers, security sources and residents in the cities confirmed. In Kunduz, one resident described the city as being enveloped in “total chaos.”
“After some fierce fighting, the mujahideen, with the grace of God, captured the capital of Kunduz,” the Taliban said in a statement Sunday afternoon.
“The mujahideen also captured Sar-e-Pul city, the government buildings and all the installations there.” The insurgents said on Twitter on Sunday evening that they had also taken Taloqan, the capital of Takhar province.
Kunduz is the most significant Taliban gain since the insurgents launched an offensive in May as foreign forces began the final stages of their withdrawal.
Vivid footage of the fighting was posted on social media over the weekend, including what appeared to be large numbers of prisoners being freed from jails in captured cities.
Hundreds of thousands of Afghans have been displaced by the recent fighting, and on Saturday, 12 people were killed when their bus was struck by a roadside bomb as they tried to flee Gardez in Paktia province.
The withdrawal of foreign forces is due to finish at the end of this month ahead of the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks. The US-led invasion sparked by 9/11 toppled the first Taliban regime in 2001.