The Taliban has seized Afghanistan’s second biggest city of Kandahar, multiple media outlets reported, citing regional authorities.
“Following heavy clashes late last night the Taliban took control of Kandahar city,” a local government official was cited by Reuters as saying.
The city was reportedly seized late Thursday, with local officials fleeing to the airport to escape the takeover.
Afghanistan is currently seeing a spike in violence as the Taliban step up their offensive after international troops started a gradual withdrawal from the country, scheduled to be completed by September 11. The pullout was stipulated in the agreement the Taliban and the United States signed in Doha in February 2020.
The seizure of Kandahar and Herat marks the biggest prizes yet for the Taliban, who have taken 12 of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals as part of a weeklong blitz. The capture of the city of Ghazni, meanwhile, cuts off a crucial highway linking the Afghan capital, Kabul, with the country’s southern provinces, all part of an insurgent push some 20 years after US and NATO troops invaded and ousted the Taliban government.