Taliban near Panjshir after retaking three northern Afghan districts

The Taliban were in position near the Panjshir valley and had retaken three districts in northern Afghanistan that fell to local militia groups last week, a spokesman said on Monday, though there were no confirmed reports of further fighting.

The districts of Bano, Deh Saleh, Pul e-Hesar in the northern province of Baghlan were taken by local militia groups last week in one of the first signs of armed resistance to the Taliban since their seizure of the capital Kabul on August 15.

By Monday, Taliban forces had cleared the districts and were established in Badakhshan, Takhar and Andarab near the Panjshir valley, according to the Twitter account of spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.

Forces loyal to Ahmad Massoud, son of the late mujahideen commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, have established themselves in his Panjshir stronghold, which resisted both the Soviets and the Taliban before 2001.

Massoud, whose forces include remnants of regular army and special forces units, has called for negotiations to form an inclusive government for Afghanistan but has promised to resist if Taliban forces try to enter the valley, north of Kabul.

Late on Sunday, the Taliban’s Alemarah information service said hundreds of fighters were heading towards Panjshir. There has been no confirmation of any fighting, but an aide to Massoud said both sides were standing ready for military action.

Zabihullah Mujahid said the Salang Pass, on the main highway running from southern Afghanistan to the north, was open and enemy forces were blockaded in the Panjshir valley. But his statement suggested there was no fighting for the moment.

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