TEHRAN (Iran News) – Taliban fighters have seized control of a key district in western Afghanistan that includes an important border crossing with Iran, Afghan security officials said, as the armed group continues its rapid military advances around the country.
In the last week, the Taliban has overrun areas bordering five countries – Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, China and Pakistan – as foreign forces end their 20-year intervention and the domestic security situation deteriorates.
According to al Jazeera, pitched battles between Taliban fighters and Afghan government forces were also under way in the northern Balkh province bordering Uzbekistan.
Two senior security officials told Reuters news agency on condition of anonymity that the Islam Qala border crossing with Iran, located in Herat province, had fallen to the Taliban and that Afghan security and customs officials had fled across the border.
Al Alalam TV, also reported that Afghan soldiers had entered Iranian territory via the border crossing to escape the Taliban.
Tariq Arian, spokesman for the Afghan interior ministry, denied the reports and said the border crossing was still under the control of government forces.
Calls by Reuters to the offices of the provincial governor and police went unanswered.
Another security official said Taliban fighters had seized five districts in Herat without a fight.
Earlier this week, more than 1,000 Afghan security personnel fled into Tajikistan as the Taliban captured most of the northern province of Badakhshan, which also borders China and Pakistan.
The defence ministry said Afghan government forces earlier on Thursday wrested back control of Qala-e-Naw, capital of the western province of Badghis, which had been stormed by the Taliban on Wednesday.
Hundreds of troops were deployed to the region, the ministry said, adding that fighting was continuing on the fringes of Qala-e-Naw, where the Taliban had earlier seized key government buildings in the city, including police headquarters.