The city of Zaranj in Afghanistan's Nimroz province has reportedly fallen to the Taliban, making it the first provincial capital the insurgents have captured as they step up offensives.
"I can confirm... the city of Zaranj, provincial capital of Nimroz, has fallen to the Taliban," Roh Gul Khairzad, the deputy governor, told AFP on Friday.
A spokesperson for Nimroz's police, who declined to be named for security reasons, also said the group captured the city. They blamed of a lack of reinforcements from the government.
However, the government claimed there was still fierce fighting around key infrastructure in the city.
The Taliban posted images on social media showing insurgents inside the local airport and posing for photographs at the entrance to the city.
➡️A provincial capital in south west Afghanistan has become the first in the country to fall to the Taliban's nationwide offensive— Telegraph World News (@TelegraphWorld) August 6, 2021
➡️Residents said Afghan forces in Zaranj in Nimroz province put up little resistance to the Taliban https://t.co/0MDvvGrK9I
Nimroz is sparsely populated in a region that's mainly desert and Zaranj, the provincial capital, has about 50,000 residents.
Its fall to the Taliban, if confirmed, was a mostly symbolic victory for the insurgents.
Fighting to reimpose strict hardline laws after their 2001 ousting by US-led forces, the Taliban have intensified their campaign to defeat the US-backed government as foreign forces complete their withdrawal after 20 years of war.
The insurgents have taken dozens of districts and border crossings in recent months and put pressure on several provincial capitals, including Herat in the west and Kandahar in the south.
Zaranj was the first provincial capital to fall to the group since the United States reached a deal with the Taliban in February 2020 for a US troop pullout.
A local source said the Taliban had seized the governor's office, the police headquarters and an encampment near the Iranian border.
Taliban sources said the group was celebrating, and Zaranj's fall would boost the morale of their fighters in other provinces.
A Taliban commander, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it has strategic importance as it is on the border with Iran.
“This is the beginning and see how other provinces fall in our hands very soon,” he said.
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