Taliban Capture Provincial Capital of Zaranj in Southwestern Afghanistan

A city in southwestern Afghanistan has become the first provincial capital to fall to the Taliban, since the militants launched a sweeping offensive earlier this year.

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Local officials said the Taliban had captured Zaranj, in Nimroz province, in a major blow to government forces.

The insurgents continue to make rapid advances across the country as foreign troops withdraw.

They have taken swathes of countryside and are now targeting key cities.

Other provincial capitals under pressure include Herat in the west, and the southern cities of Kandahar and Lashkar Gah.

The UN’s special envoy for Afghanistan, Deborah Lyons, on Friday said the war there had entered a “new, deadlier, and more destructive phase”, with more than 1,000 civilians killed in the past month.

She warned that the country was heading for “catastrophe”, and called on the UN Security Council to issue an “unambiguous statement that attacks against cities must stop now”.

Later on Friday, the UK government advised all its citizens in Afghanistan to leave because of the worsening security situation.

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