Kabul, Aug 13 (EFE).- The Taliban Friday claimed that they captured Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second-largest city, in their most significant military breakthrough so far since the insurgents began their offensive after foreign troops started withdrawing in May.
Taliban spokesperson Qari Yusuf Ahmadi tweeted that the militants had taken control of the Kandahar governor’s office, police headquarters, and several other centers in the city.
Ahmadi said many government soldiers surrendered to the Taliban and the rest fled.
The claim could not be verified independently.
If true, Kandahar in the south would be the 13th provincial capital captured by the Taliban in a week.
The Afghan government did not confirm or deny the fall of the city.
Kandahar and several neighboring towns were under the Taliban siege for weeks as Afghan troops resisted the rapid advance by the insurgents.
After the withdrawal of international troops began on May 1, the US Air Force conducted several airstrikes to help Afghan forces push back the insurgents in Kandahar.
The fall of Kandahar came hours after the Taliban captured Herat, the third-largest Afghan city and capital of the western province of the same name.
“Unfortunately most of the city of Herat, including the governor’s house and the police headquarters (…), was captured by the Taliban,” federal lawmaker Simin Barakzai told EFE.
Reza Watandost, another lawmaker from Herat, said much of the city, with more than 500,000 residents, was under the Taliban control.
Videos shared by the Taliban on social media show the insurgents firing their guns into the air as they rapidly advanced in the city center.
The province borders Iran and Turkmenistan.
Besides being the country’s third-most-populous city after Kabul and Kandahar, Herat is one of Afghanistan’s key commercial centers.
Herat was the second of three Afghan provincial capitals to fall to the Taliban on Thursday as the insurgents continued their rapid advance amid the final phase of the withdrawal of foreign troops. EFE