The Taliban said on Monday they have taken control of Panjshir province north of Kabul, the Afghan capital. The province was the last holdout of anti-Taliban forces in the country and the only province the Taliban had not seized during their sweep last month.
Thousands of Taliban fighters overrun eight districts of Panjshir overnight, according to witnesses from the area. They spoke on condition of anonymity fearing for their safety.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid issued a statement Monday, saying Panjshir was now under the control of the Taliban fighters.
The anti-Taliban forces had been led by the former vice president, Amrullah Saleh, and also the son of the iconic anti-Taliban fighter Ahmad Shah Massoud who was killed just days before the 9/11 attacks in the United States.
Massoud's son Ahmad had issued a statement Sunday, calling for an end to the fighting that had been blistering in recent days. The young British-schooled Massoud said his forces were ready to lay down their weapons but only if the Taliban agreed to end their assault. Late on Sunday dozens of vehicles loaded with Taliban were seen swarming into Panjshir Valley.
There has been no statement from Saleh, Afghanistan's former vice president who had declared himself the acting president after Ashraf Ghani fled the country on Aug. 15 as the Taliban reached the gates of the capital. The Taliban subsequently entered the presidency building that day.
In his statement, Mujahid sought to assure residents of Panjshir that they would be safe — even as scores of families reportedly fled into the mountains ahead of the Taliban's arrival.
“We give full confidence to the honorable people of Panjshir that they will not be subjected to any discrimination, that all are our brothers, and that we will serve a country and a common goal,” Mujahid said in his statement.