Taliban claim control over 2 major cities in S. Afghanistan

KABUL, Aug. 13 (Xinhua) -- Taliban militants on Friday claimed to have taken control over key southern Afghan cities of Lashkar Gah and Kandahar, after weeks of heavy clashes between the Taliban and government forces.

Taliban fighters pose for a photo as they patrol inside the city of Ghazni, southwest of Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021. (File photo: CFP)

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on his social media account that they overran government offices, including provincial police headquarters, in Lashkar Gah, capital of Helmand province, on Thursday night. Helmand has been regarded as a Taliban stronghold during the past two decades, but Afghan soldiers were holding control over Lashkar Gah and many of the suburban districts.

He also claimed that the militants seized all parts of Kandahar city, capital of neighboring Kandahar province. Footages went viral on social media showed that Taliban fighters were patrolling in the city early Friday.

On Thursday night, Taliban declared that they captured Herat and Qala-e-Naw cities in western part of the country while unconfirmed reports said western city of Firoz Koah also has fallen to the Taliban.

The Afghan government has not confirmed the claim by the Taliban so far.

Fighting has intensified since May in Afghanistan and Taliban militants have recently been mounting pressure on major cities.