Afghanistan: Taliban capture provincial capital Zaranj ‘without a fight’

The Taliban captured Afghan provincial capital Zaranj, in Nimroz province, in a major blow to Afghanistan government forces.

The city in the southwestern region of Afghanistan fell to the Taliban as the group makes rapid advances across the country as foreign troops withdraw.

They have taken swathes of countryside and are now targeting key cities.

Other provincial capitals under pressure include Herat in the west, and the southern cities of Kandahar and Lashkar Gah.

The UN’s special envoy for Afghanistan, Deborah Lyons, on Friday said the war there had entered a “new, deadlier, and more destructive phase”, with more than 1,000 civilians killed in the past month.

She warned that the country was heading for “catastrophe”, and called on the UN Security Council to issue an “unambiguous statement that attacks against cities must stop now”.

‘Fallen without a fight’

Taliban insurgents claimed victory in Zaranj, which is a major trading hub near the Iranian border.

“This is the beginning, and see how other provinces fall in our hands very soon,” a Taliban commander told Reuters news agency.

Pictures posted on social media showed civilians looting items from government buildings. Taliban insurgents were photographed inside the local airport and posing at the entrance to the city.

The militants made a sustained bid to seize the city after capturing surrounding districts.

But Nimroz’s Deputy Governor Roh Gul Khairzad told reporters that Zaranj had fallen “without a fight”.

She and other local officials complained of a lack of reinforcements from the Afghan government.

“The city was under threat for a while, but no one from the central government listened to us,” Ms Khairzad said.