Afghanistan rebels make their final stand against Taliban: 'We will not surrender'

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But there were conflicting reports, with rebels denying Taliban claims of victory, and insisting they would never give up the fight. One Taliban commander claimed: “By the grace of Allah Almighty, we are in control of the entire Afghanistan.

Deafening volleys of celebratory gunfire resounded all over Kabul and Facebook accounts were full of mentions of the fall of Panjshir.

However, it was not immediately possible to confirm the reports, which if true would give the Taliban complete control of Afghanistan, something they did not achieve when they first ruled the country between 1996 and 2001.

Former Vice President Amrullah Saleh, one of the leaders of the opposition forces, denied his side had given up.

The UK-educated younger Massoud, widely seen as having inherited the title of Lion of Panjshir himself, said: “News of Panjshir conquests is circulating on Pakistani media. This is a lie.”

There had been reports of heavy fighting and casualties in the valley, which is walled off by mountains except for a narrow entrance and had held out against Soviet occupation as well as the previous Taliban government that was ousted in 2001.

Meanwhile, US-trained Afghan pilots who flew 46 military planes out of the country before the Taliban seized Kabul on August 15 questioned when they would be allowed to leave the Uzbekistan camp where they were being held.

They said: “We are kind of like in jail.”

The Taliban seized Kabul on August 15 after rapid advances across Afghanistan.

Earlier, Taliban sources said the group’s co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar would lead a new Afghan government set to be announced soon.

Its immediate priority may be to avert the collapse of an economy grappling with drought and the ravages of a 20-year conflict that killed around 240,000 Afghans before US forces completed a tumultuous pullout on August 30.

Afghanistan is facing not only humanitarian disaster but also threats to its security from rival jihadist groups.

These include a local offshoot of Islamic State which was blamed for the twin suicide bombings last week, which claimed the lives of an estimated 190 people including 13 US Marines.



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