Local officials in western Afghanistan say Taliban fighters have entered the provincial hub of Zaranj and its Kabul-backed governor and other senior officials have fled, leaving the militant group poised to capture its first major population center since an all-out offensive began four months ago.
A provincial administration official in a neighboring province said on August 6 that the capital of Nimroz Province is now largely under Taliban control although local police and other security forces are still resisting in some parts of the city.
Local officials describe panic among terrified residents that left many Afghan families scrambling to cross the border into Iran.
Zaranj has a recent population of around 50,000 people.
The push in Zaranj follows news earlier in the day of the Taliban assassination in Kabul of Dawa Khan Menapal, the head of the Afghan government’s Information and Media Center.
Menapal’s killing was the latest incident signaling Taliban militants’ increased focus on government targets as they also continue major offensives in other big cities including Herat, also in western Afghanistan, and Kandahar and Lashkar Gah in the south.
The intense fighting and reports of heavy civilian casualties are on the agenda as the UN Security Council prepares to discuss the security situation in Afghanistan later on August 6 at the request of the Afghan government, Norway, and Estonia.
A local elder in Nimroz, Haji Abdul Satar Noorzai, said that government officials fled as the Taliban advanced in Zaranj.
A Nimroz provincial administration official who did not want to be identified said residents were fleeing in panic, with some crossing the border into neighboring Iran.
He said Taliban fighters had posted photos of themselves taking over the nearby district of Kang and then approaching Zaranj itself.