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Taliban seize 10th provincial capital as key city Ghazni falls

Taliban militants have overrun the provincial capital of Afghanistan’s south-eastern province of Ghazni, officials said on Thursday, as worries grow about the security of the capital Kabul.

Taliban militants have overrun the provincial capital of Afghanistan’s south-eastern province of Ghazni, officials said on Thursday, as worries grow about the security of the capital Kabul.

With the fall of Ghazni city insurgents have taken control of 10 of the 34 provincial capitals within a week, making rapid territorial gains as the US and its allies withdraw from the war-torn country by the end of the month.

In Ghazni city, the militants seized the most important government offices, including the governor’s office and police headquarters, and broke into the province’s central prison, according to local councillors Nasir Ahmad Faqiri and Amanullah Kamran.

The councillors accused the governor of making a deal with the Taliban to abandon the city, which shares the same name as the province, to the militants.

Another provincial council member, Hamidullah Sarwari, said the Taliban have stopped their attack on the city’s spy agency building and that and a number of security forces who were earlier putting up resistance at the site would highly likely surrender to the Taliban.

Sarwari said the Taliban overran a number of police districts overnight before taking control of the whole city.

The pro-government forces have fled the city and are currently stationed on a hilltop some 15 kilometres away, Sarwari added.

In the meantime, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior Affairs said that the governor was arrested, along with some other officials in the Maidan Wardak province, while they were on their way to Kabul.

The ministry did not provide any further details on why the officials were arrested.

Across the country, Afghan security forces have been overwhelmed by the Taliban onslaught, and military resources were stretched thin, prompting fears about the fate of the capital Kabul.

The city of Ghazni has an estimated 180,000 inhabitants and is located on an important road that connects the largest cities in the country. Because of its proximity to Kabul, the Taliban had tried several times to bring it under their control.

The militants had been holding two police districts in the city since around mid-July. In the summer of 2018, more than 100 police officers and soldiers, and around 20 civilians were killed in a major attack in the city by more than 1,000 Taliban fighters.

Besides Ghazni, the Taliban have also broken a truce they had with the security forces in northern Badghis province, resuming attacks on the provincial capital city of Qala-e Naw, according to local councillors.

Many residents have started evacuating the city and fled to the neighbouring Herat province, and some other villages of Badghis.

In Sheberghan, the capital city of northern Jawzjan, the Taliban have also captured the airport, according to local council members.

Taliban attack on the outskirts of the northern city Mazar-e Sharif has been repulsed by the security forces, an official there said.

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