Sharan city of Paktika province taken over by advancing Taliban, Afghan forces claim killing 265 insurgents
KABUL, Afghanistan (AA) – The Taliban in Afghanistan marched on Maidan city, less than 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the country’s heavily guarded capital Kabul, sources confirmed on Saturday.
Blitzing through much of the restive south and almost all of the northern provinces, Taliban forces have now begun to tighten control around the capital city.
“The ‘Mujahideen’ (Taliban) took complete control of Sharana, the capital of Paktika province. The governor’s office, police headquarters, intelligence (headquarters) and all places were ‘conquered’,” tweeted the group’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.
Visuals shared by the pro-Taliban account showed hundreds of the group’s armed fighters in command of the main highway in Maidan Wardak province connecting Kabul with the rest of the country’s southern and western provinces.
Meanwhile, the country’s Defense Ministry claimed to have pushed back a major assault on the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif. In air and ground offensives, the ministry said 265 insurgents were killed in the past 24 hours.
Making rapid gains over the past few days, the Taliban have now taken control of 18 of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals.
Prior to Sharan, Qalat was the 17th provincial capital to be fully or partly overrun by the Taliban, after Tarinkot, Pul-e-Alam, Kandahar, Lashkargah, Herat, Feroz Koh, Qala-e-Nau, Ghazni, Fayzabad, Aybak, Zaranj, Sheberghan, Kunduz, Pul-e-Khumri, Taluqan, and Sar-e-Pul.
Meanwhile, in a short televised speech, Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani on Saturday vowed to continue defending his government. “The country is in serious danger of instability,” said the president.