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Taliban has captured Panjshir province in Afghanistan, claims spokesperson

Taliban has captured Panjshir province in Afghanistan, claims spokesperson
The Taliban says it has taken complete control of Panjshir province, a claim denied by resistance forces

The Taliban has taken complete control of Panjshir province in Afghanistan, according to the Islamist militant group’s spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid on Monday, even as resistance forces denied this claim and vowed to “continue the fight”.

The province is the last remaining stronghold against the Taliban in the country. It is the only province the Taliban was unable to seize even as it took control of the rest of the country last month.

The National Resistance Front (NRF), which is the primary opposition group against the Taliban in the area, has denied claims of the takeover. “It is not true, the Taliban haven’t captured Panjshir I am rejecting Taliban claims,” NRF spokesman Ali Maisam told the BBC.

There have been reports of heavy in the area, with dozens of vehicles loaded with Taliban fighters seen entering the valley.

The Taliban reportedly overran at least eight districts in Panjshir overnight, according to eyewitnesses who spoke to the Associated Press (AP) on the condition of anonymity for fear of their safety.

The insurgent group, in a tweet on Sunday, said it took control of Rokha district, one of the largest of the eight districts.

The NRF, however, has said these claims were false. “The NRF forces are present in all strategic positions across the valley to continue the fight,” said a Twitter handle belonging to the NRF.

Photos on social media showed Taliban fighters standing in front of the gates of the province governor’s compound. These photos, however, could not be independently verified.

Abdul Qahar Balkhi, a Taliban leader and a member of the group’s cultural commission, tweeted one such photo that has been doing the rounds on social media platforms.

There has been no comment yet from Ahmad Massoud, who is the leader of the opposition resisting the Taliban and is the son of Ahmad Shah Massoud, a prominent opponent of the Taliban who was killed days before the 9/11 attacks in the US.

Mr Massoud had called for an end to the fighting in a statement on Sunday. He said his forces were ready to lay down their weapons if the Taliban agreed to end their assault, reported AP.

Amrullah Saleh, the country’s former vice president who had declared himself the country’s acting president after then president Ashraf Ghani escaped the country and left for the United Arab Emirates, has not commented either.

Fahim Dashti, a spokesperson for the NRF, was killed on Sunday in the ongoing battle against the Islamist insurgents, according to several local reports.

Mujahid, in a statement, said citizens of the Panjshir valley would be safe, even as several families reportedly escaped ahead of the Taliban’s arrival.

“We give full confidence to the honorable people of Panjshir that they will not be subjected to any discrimination, that all are our brothers, and that we will serve a country and a common goal,” he was quoted as saying by AP.

(Additional reporting by agencies)