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Taliban captures first provincial center in Afghanistan, a symbolic victory

Taliban militants captured the provincial center of Afghanistan's western province of Nimroz on Friday. The militant group also assassinated a senior government spokesman in Kabul, and overran parts of the Jawzjan provincial center in northern Afghanistan before being pushed back by the Afghan military and uprising forces, according to Afghan officials. 

The capture of Zaranj, the first provincial center, is a symbolic victory for the Taliban, which is fighting to take power after the group signed a withdrawal deal with the Americans in 2020 and the Biden administration vowed a withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of August.

"The Afghan forces left the city without any small resistance," said an Afghan official who spoke on the condition that he would not be named because his family was still in Zaranj. "The governor's building, the police headquarters, the airport were all handed over to the Taliban without a single shot being fired. Only intelligence forces fought for two hours before they escaped to a nearby district."

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said Zaranj has become the first provincial center to be captured during what he called "Al-Fatha operation."

Baz Muhammad Nasiri, head of the provincial council, said the collapse of the city was triggered by the recent fall of a nearby district to the Taliban and the lack of attention from the central government that lowered the Afghan force's morale. He said the Taliban control four out of five districts in the Nimroz province.

In the northern Jawzjan province, the Taliban overran parts of Sheberghan, the provincial center that includes the governor's office, the police headquarters, and a palace belonging to the powerful Uzbek warlord Marshal Abdul Rashid Dostum before they pushed back.

"This morning the Taliban entered the city and managed to take control of several government buildings and torch many places including a hotel and a guesthouse," Halima Sadaf Karimi, a member of parliament from Jowzjan, told CBS News. "Around 200 Taliban were killed in the city and several of them still fighting with the Afghan forces inside Marsha Dostum's' palace."

"Sheberghan has been cleared of the terrorists. Afghan military and uprising forces inflicted heavy causalities to the Taliban," Fawad Aman, a spokesman for the defense ministry, told CBS News. The "Taliban will be soon defeated in Nimroz as well."

In Kabul, following a string of assassinations, Dawa Khan Menapal, a senior government spokesman, was killed by a gunman in Kabul's police district 7th, according to Mirwais Stanikzai, a spokesman for the ministry of interior.

Mr. Menapal was a former deputy spokesman for President Ghani and was recently promoted to the position of Government Media Information Center Director. He was assassinated while traveling in the city in a taxi.

The U.S embassy, NATO, and the European Union condemned Mr. Meanapal's assassination.

"We are saddened & disgusted by the Taliban's targeted killing of Dawa Khan Meenapal, a friend and colleague whose career was focused on providing truthful information to all Afghans about Afghanistan," tweeted U.S Charge d'Affairs Ross Wilson. "these murders are an affront to Afghans' human rights & freedom of speech."

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