Taliban captures sixth provincial capital in Afghanistan

The Taliban have captured a sixth provincial capital in Afghanistan in four days, as the group’s advances gain momentum.

The armed group’s spokesman on Monday morning sent messages to the media claiming it has overrun Aybak, the capital of the northern province of Samangan.

Samangan’s deputy provincial governor confirmed the takeover to the AFP news agency.

The Taliban is “in full control”, he said, shortly after a Taliban spokesman tweeted that all government and police installations in Aybak had been “cleared”.

The armed group said its fighters now control the provincial governor’s compound, the intelligence directorate, police headquarters and all other official buildings in the city.

Aybak is the fifth northern provincial capital to fall to the Taliban in less than a week, and the sixth overall in the country.

The fall of Samangan will put further strain on an already stretched Afghan security forces, as commandos and backup forces have been dispatched to the five other provinces whose capital have fallen – Kunduz, Takhar, Jowzjan, Sar-e-Pol, Nimruz – as well as the provinces of Herat, Kandahar and Helmand.

The group also said on Monday that they were moving in on Mazar-i-Sharif, northern Afghanistan’s largest city.

Overnight on Sunday and throughout the day on Monday, reports came in from the northern districts of Balkh, Badakhshan and Panjshir provinces, with the Taliban hoping to close in on their capitals.

Unlike Jowzjan, Kunduz and Sar-e-Pol, Samangan was once known to be one of the safest provinces in Afghanistan, with a minimal Taliban presence.

However, the last three years saw a growing presence of the group in the province.