Afghanistan: Fourth largest city falls to Taliban

Mazar-i-Sharif, the capital of Balkh province, was the last major city in northern Afghanistan, marking the complete loss of the country's north to the Taliban

Kabul: Taliban has wrested control of Mazar-e-Sharif, the fourth largest city of Afghanistan, after days of heavy fighting between the group and Afghan forces.

Several videos have emerged on social media showing Afghan soldiers fleeing Mazar-e-Sharif.

Mazar-i-Sharif, the capital of Balkh province, was the last major city in northern Afghanistan, marking the complete loss of the country’s north to the Taliban as the terrorists appear on the verge of a full military takeover.

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With the fall of Mazar-i-Sharif, the only two major cities left under government control are Kabul and Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar Province in the eastern part of the country.

“Chaotic scenes in parts of Mazari Sharif, Afghan soldiers were seen fleeing. One resident told me, there is panic, fear and chances of clashes inside the city,” Afghan journalist Bilal Sarwary tweeted.

“‘All Afghan forces have fled the city of Mazari Sharif and are now at Hayratan port on the border with Uzbekistan. The city of Mazari Sharif has fallen into the hands of Taliban.’ Multiple residents and a government official tells me,” the journalist further tweeted.

The Taliban has made major advances in recent days capturing key provincial capitals in the last few days. The group now control about 20 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.

Earlier, the Taliban claimed control over the capital of the south-eastern Afghan province of Paktika, Sharana, and Logar’ provincial capital Pul-e-Alam city.

The fall of Mazar-e-Sharif comes days after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had flown to Mazar-e-Sharif on Wednesday to rally the city’s defences, meeting with several militia commanders, including Abdul Rashid Dostum and Ata Mohammad Noor, who command thousands of fighters.

In a televised address, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani on Saturday reassured citizens that his government will prevent further violence and displacement of the people and ensure that stability is maintained.

“Under the current situation, remobilizing the Afghan security and defence forces is our top priority,” TOLO News quoted President Ghani as saying in a pre-recorded message.

The violence has dramatically increased in Afghanistan after the US and allies started to pull out troops, resulting in Taliban seizing vast territories.

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