The Taliban on Monday claimed to have taken the Panjshir Valley, Afghanistan’s last bastion that was not firmly under their control, even as representatives of the opposition forces there claimed they still controlled strategic positions in the region and promised to continue. fight.
The conflicting stories of what happened on the ground in the region 70 miles north of Kabul have been difficult to verify as internet and telephone services have been cut to the region.
While rumors of the Taliban taking power circulated over the weekend, it took until Monday morning for the group to officially claim power.
“The province of Panjshir fell entirely under the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid wrote in a statement on Twitter.
Taliban fighters posted images online allegedly belonging to militants raising the flag of the Islamic emirate of Afghanistan, as the Taliban call the country, in the provincial capital of Bazarak, as well as their troops talking to local leaders.
While the Taliban claimed they had conquered the entire province, the opposition group, the National Resistance Front, disputed that story, saying its forces were still positioned over the Panjshir Valley.
“We assure the Afghan people that the fight against the Taliban and their partners will continue until justice and freedom prevail,” he said. it said on Twitter.
For their part, the Taliban tried to reassure the local population that their armed forces would not harm them.
“We give full assurances to the honorable people of Panjshir that they will not be discriminated against,” said Mr Mujahid. “They are all our brothers and we will serve a country and a common purpose.”
The Taliban took over most of Afghanistan with astonishing speed after the withdrawal of most of the US troops. US-trained Afghan security forces melted away in front of the militants, sometimes without firing a shot, culminating in the Taliban’s August 15 seizure of the capital, Kabul.
Still, pockets of resistance persisted, especially in the north, where the Taliban had long clashed with other paramilitary groups. In late August, a group of former mujahideen fighters and Afghan commandos said they had started a resistance war in Panjshir. A rugged area about 70 miles north of Kabul, Panjshir, with its mountains and steep valleys, has provided cover for insurgents since the Soviet occupation of the 1980s.
In recent days, the Taliban reportedly made a profit against the resistance forces and killed several senior leaders, including resistance spokesman Fahim Dashti. Ahmad Zia Kechkenni, Mr Dashti’s brother, said in an interview on Monday that the spokesman “has been tortured for defending his people and country, Afghanistan.”