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Taliban claim they have control of last Afghan holdout province

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By Euronews
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Militiamen loyal to Ahmad Massoud, son of the late Ahmad Shah Massoud, take part in a training exercise, in Panjshir province
Militiamen loyal to Ahmad Massoud, son of the late Ahmad Shah Massoud, take part in a training exercise, in Panjshir province   -   Copyright  Credit: AP
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The Taliban claimed on Monday that they had taken control of the Panjshir Valley.

Located north of Kabul, it's the last province not controlled by Taliban fighters after they completed a rapid takeover of the country last month.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement on Monday the province was now under the control of Taliban fighters, claiming they were now in charge of the entire country.

"In Panjshir, a number of insurgent gang members were beaten, the rest fled," Mujahid said.

Witnesses in the area told the Associated Press that thousands of fighters overran the province's eight districts overnight.

But the resistance front in Panjshir maintained that the claim was false, stating that resistance "forces are present in all strategic positions across the valley to continue the fight."

"We assure the ppl [sic] of Afghanistan that the struggle against the Taliban & their partners will continue until justice & freedom prevails," the National Resistance Front in the country tweeted.

Afghanistan's former vice president and self-declared acting president Amrullah Saleh is one of the leaders of the resistance in the province.

Saleh told Euronews mere days ago that he remained in the Panjshir Valley with his National Resistance Front fighters.

"Reports that I have left my country and am outside Afghanistan are the propaganda of the enemy," he said.

"I'm in Panjshir. I'm at my base. We have had several meetings with commanders and we manage the situation with political figures."

The Panjshir Valley is strategically located in the Hindu Kush mountains and was previously defended against the Soviets and later the Taliban during their rule from 1996 to 2001.

Taliban spokesman Mujahid attempted to reassure people in his statement about the valley.

"We give full assurance to the honourable people of Panjshir that they will not be discriminated against, they are all our brothers and we will serve a country and a common goal."

"With these recent victories and efforts, our country has completely come out of the vortex of war, and our people will have a peaceful and happy life in the atmosphere of freedom, independence and prosperity."

Mohammad Shafiq Hamdam, a former advisor to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, told Euronews that the weaknesses of the resistance movement had been exposed.

“Firstly, they don’t have a united position because most of the leaders of the Northern Alliance, a former resistance movement, have escaped the country,” he told Euronews Tonight. “Secondly, Commander Ahmad Massoud is too young. He is fighting with Taliban forces who have experience of at least 20 years of fighting. And thirdly, economically, they suffered from sanctions; they were besieged and they didn’t have any help from inside or outside the country.”

Additional sources • AP