Kabul, Aug 12 (EFE).- Taliban fighters Thursday captured the strategic Ghazni province that connects the capital Kabul to other southern Afghan regions, officials and the insurgents said.
The region became the 10th province to fall to the insurgents in a week in their major offensive toward Kabul after United States-led foreign troops withdrew from the war-ravaged country.
Nasir Ahmad Faqiri, head of the provincial council, and his deputy Amanullah Kamrani confirmed the Taliban capture of the province.
“Ghazni city fell to the Taliban today (Thursday) morning. The security forces have retreated from much of the city,” Kamrani told EFE.
He said the insurgents gained control of the Governor House, provincial police headquarters, the prison, and many other government buildings.
Kamrani said the militants opened released hundreds of prisoners, including some jailed Taliban leaders.
He said provincial officials left the city after security forces offered little resistance to halt the militant onslaught.
Faqiri said the fighting continued in eastern parts of the city, but the provincial capital was under the Taliban control.
“Governor Dawood Laghmani and provincial police chief left the city for Kabul,” he said.
The lawmakers said the city remained shut and all shops and businesses kept their shutters down, and the residents stayed home.
The Taliban confirmed the latest capture in a statement posted by its spokesperson Qari Yusuf Ahmadi on social media.
Ahmadi said the provincial governor and the police chief were given “a safe passage” and moved toward the national capital.
Ghazni is a strategic province that connects the capital Kabul to the southeast and southern parts of the country.
The Taliban had earlier captured Nimroz, Farah, Jawzjan, Samangan, Sar-e-Pol, Baghlan, Takhar, Badakhshan, and Kunduz provinces.
The defense ministry said fighting continued in nine of the 34 Afghan provinces in which 217 Taliban fighters were killed and over 100 injured in the last 24 hours.
In a major shake-up of the Afghan security setup, President Ashraf Ghani Wednesday ousted General Wali Mohammad Ahmadzai as the army chief and replaced him with General Hibatullah Alizai.
Ghani also appointed General Sami Sadat, who has offered a solid resistance against the in Lashkargah, as the commander of the Special Operation Corps. EFE