Afghanistan’s Taliban insurgents tightened their grip on the country’s overland trade routes with the seizure of a major town on the border with Pakistan.
Residents of Spin Boldak in Kandahar province said Taliban fighters entered the town on Wednesday. The Afghan government said it was still in control of the area, but Pakistani officials in the town of Chaman reported seeing the Taliban flag flying from the Friendship Gate at the border crossing.
The crossing between Spin Boldak and Chaman is the landlocked country’s second busiest entry point and main commercial artery between its south-west region and Pakistan’s sea ports. Afghan government data indicate that the route is used by 900 lorries a day.
The Afghan interior ministry spokesman Tareq Arian said the Taliban’s attempt to take Spin Boldak had failed.
“The terrorist Taliban had some movements near the border area… The security forces have repelled the attack,” he told AFP.
But social media was flooded with pictures of Taliban fighters relaxing in the frontier town.
“I went to my shop this morning and saw that the Taliban are everywhere. They are in the bazaar, in police HQ and custom areas. I can also hear the sound of fighting nearby,” shopkeeper Raz Mohammad told AFP.
Officials in Chaman said the Taliban had suspended all travel through the gate.