Taliban fighters take Afgan government’s last northern stronghold

0 433

Taliban fighters have captured Mazar-e-Sharif, the last major city in northern Afghanistan which was still under government control.

The fall of the traditional anti-Taliban bastion marked a major gain for the militants, who have been advancing at speed as US-led forces withdraw.

President Ashraf Ghani travelled to the city just days ago to rally troops.

The Taliban are now in control of much of the country and are edging closer to the capital Kabul.

More than a quarter of a million people have been displaced by the violence, and many have headed to Kabul in hopes of finding safety.

Women in areas captured by the Taliban have described being forced to wear burkas and the militants are also reported to have beaten and lashed people for breaking social rules.

Local officials said Mazar-e-Sharif – the fourth largest city in Afghanistan – fell largely without a fight.

Abas Ebrahimzada, a lawmaker from Balkh province whose capital city is Mazar-e-Sharif, told the Associated Press news agency that the national army were the first to surrender, which then prompted pro-government forces and other militia to give up.

Mazar-e-Sharif is a major economic centre that lies close to the borders with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. The last time the Taliban took the city was in the 1990s.