Kabul, Aug 10 (EFE).- The Taliban seized control of two Afghan provincial capitals on Tuesday, bringing to eight the number of administrative hubs captured by insurgents in less than a week.
Pul-i-Khumri, capital of the southern province of Baghlan, fell to the Taliban late Tuesday.
“Security forces, after days of resistance, today early evening left the city and retreated toward Kilagai in southeast of the city and Taliban fighters entered the city and captured government buildings” a security official in Baghlan told Efe on the condition of anonymity.
Abdul Razaq Hashemi, a federal lawmaker from the province, confirmed to Efe that the city was in the hands of the Taliban.
“All government buildings, including the governor’s house, police headquarters, and other government institutions are now under the control of the insurgents,” he said.
“The security forces also decided to leave the city to avoid casualties among the civilian population and damage to the city,” Hashemi said.
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed the seizure of Pul-i-Khumri.
“The Mujahideen are pursuing the enemy. The enemy has suffered heavy casualties,” he said on Twitter.
Baghlan is one of Afghanistan’s most strategic provinces, as it links Kabul with several northern regions.
A large number of displaced people were headed to Kabul after the Taliban took control of the capital, sources in Baghlan told Efe.
Earlier in the day, the Taliban captured the western city of Farah, capital of the likenamed province, after days of heavy fighting.
“Taliban today afternoon captured Farah provincial capital with security forces only resisting in the provincial directorate compound of the National Directorate of Security (NDS),” lawmaker Abdul Naser Farahi, who represents the province in the lower house of parliament, told Efe.
The Taliban broke the security cordon around Farah around noon on Tuesday and entered the city.
“The governor house, provincial police headquarters and some other government offices have been captured by the Taliban fighters,” Farahi said, though adding that government forces were still fighting.
“Clearance operation is underway to oust the enemy forces from rest of the city as well, the rest of the city will be cleared soon”, Taliban spokesperson Qari Yusuf Ahmadi tweeted.
The fighting had already forced the closure of all shops and businesses and displaced hundreds of families.
Farah, which borders Iran and connects Herat province with the southern part of the country, has strategic importance for both the government and the Taliban.
Zaranj, capital of Nimroz province – south of Farah – was the first regional capital to fall to the Taliban, marking the beginning of an unprecedented surge by the insurgents in 20 years of conflict
Taliban and Afghan government forces were battling each other Tuesday in at least 11 of the country’s 34 provinces.
The Afghan Defense Ministry said that 361 Taliban fighters were killed and 125 others wounded in the past 24 hours, but offered no information on losses among the army or civilians.