The Taliban on Thursday claimed to have captured the strategically important city of Ghazni, central Afghanistan, making it 10th provincial capital to fall to the advancing insurgents in the war-ravaged country.
Located only around 150 kilometers (93 miles) from Kabul, Ghazi connects southern and western Afghanistan with the capital city.
"The capital of Ghazni province was also conquered," tweeted Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahed with visuals of the group's fighters roaming the city.
“Moments ago in Ghazni city, the governor, police chief, prison, reserve unit, rapid reaction center, shrine, and center of the zero-6 unit were completely conquered. Large numbers of soldiers were killed and dozens more surrendered. A large number of weapons and equipment were recovered,” he claimed.
Nasir Ahmad Faqiri, head of the provincial assembly, confirmed the fall of the city, saying it came about as a result of a "deal" with the provincial governor.
The city’s capture comes a day after a major shuffle at the top of the Afghan National Army, as two hawkish young military leaders took charge of the regular armed forces as well as the army special units.
Amid escalating Taliban advances in the war-ravaged country, Gen. Hibatullah Alizai took charge as chief of the armed forces while Gen. Sami Sadat took the helm of the special forces.
Sadat previously headed the army’s 215-Maiwand Corps in the Taliban’s perceived heartland in southern Afghanistan, where he was credited with pushing backing major Taliban advances on the city of Lashkargah.
Gen. Alizai previously headed the army special forces.
Earlier on Wednesday, advancing Taliban insurgents said they had captured Fayzabad, center of the northern Badakhshan province, next to Tajikistan.
Seemingly undeterred by the heavy death toll Afghan forces claimed to have inflicted on the insurgents, the Taliban continued their advances on urban centers after capturing nearly 200 rural districts.
Ghazni became the 10th provincial capital to be partly or partially overrun by the Taliban after Fayzabad, Aybak, Qala-e-Nau, Lashkargah, Zaranj, Sheberghan, Kunduz, Taluqan, and Sar-e-Pul.
After taking over nearly 200 rural districts last month amid the withdrawal of NATO forces, the Taliban launched assaults on major cities, marching on Herat, Kandahar, Taluqan, and Lashkargah, causing panic and anxiety among millions of civilians.