The fall of Zaranj will be seen as a heavy blow to Afghan government forces (pictured)

A city in southwestern Afghanistan has become the country’s first provincial capital to fall to the Taliban in recent years.

Multiple local officials said the Taliban had captured Zaranj, in Nimroz province, on Friday afternoon, in a significant blow to government forces.

The militants continue to make rapid advances in 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 in the country 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”.

“To attack urban areas is to knowingly inflict enormous harm and cause massive civilian casualties. Nonetheless, the threatening of large urban areas appears to be a strategic decision by the Taliban, who have accepted the likely carnage that will ensue,” she said.

Source: BBC

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