Panjshir, the north-eastern valley of Afghanistan that had remained free of Taliban control so far, has been "completely captured" by it, the militant organisation said on Monday, 6 September.
The National Resistance Front (NRF) of Afghanistan, however, has denied the Taliban's claims of capturing Panjshir.
"Taliban’s claim of occupying Panjshir is false. The NRF forces are present in all strategic positions across the valley to continue the fight. We assure the people of Afghanistan that the struggle against the Taliban & their partners will continue until justice & freedom prevails," the group said.
Led by Ahmad Massoud, son of legendary Taliban opponent and fighter Ahmad Shah Massoud, the NRF had been keeping alive the resistance from Panjshir, the valley that has become an emblem of anti-Taliban struggle over the decades.
Two prominent members of the NRF, spokesperson Fahim Dashty, and Massoud's nephew General Zara, were killed by the Taliban in Panjshir on Sunday.
'Panjshir Completely Conquered': Taliban Statement
"With the help of God Almighty and with the broad support of our nation, our last efforts for the complete security of the country have given result and Panjshir province has been completely conquered and come under the control of the Islamic Emirate," Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said.
Taliban spokesperson Mujahid indicated that a number of resisters in Panjshir were beaten, while the rest fled, as theTaliban seized control of the valley.
"We give full assurance to the honorable people of Panjshir that they will not be discriminated against, they are all our brothers and we will serve a country and a common goal. With these recent victories and efforts, our country has completely come out of the vortex of war, and our people will have a peaceful and happy life in the atmosphere of freedom, independence and prosperity," Mujahid said in a statement.
NRF's Call For Ceasefire
The National Resistance Front (NRF) of Afghanistan, which had been persisting with the resistance against the Taliban from Panjshir Valley, had called for a ceasefire on Sunday, welcoming negotiations with the militant group. The NRF statement had come after the Taliban had surrounded the valley and killed NRF spokesperson Fahim Dashty on Sunday.
"The NRF proposes that the Taliban stop its military operations in Panjshir, Andarab, Parwan, and Kapisa and withdraw its forces from Panjshir and Andarab. In return, we will direct our forces to refrain from military action," Massoud had said in a statement on Sunday.
'No Religious, Human, Rational Reason for Taliban to Attack': NRF
The NRF, in the statement released on Sunday, said that it was ready to end war and work towards lasting peace if the Taliban agreed to end its onslaught on Panjshir.
"The NRF is ready to immediately end the war to achieve lasting peace if the Taliban end their attacks and military operations in Panjshir and Andarab. We hope to hold a high-level meeting with scholars to continue this conversation," the group said.
"The people of Afghanistan are overwhelmingly Muslim. The struggles and sacrifices of the people of Panjshir, Andarab, Parwan, Kapisa, and other provinces and regions of Afghanistan over the past forty years have been to establish a true Islamic system. Therefore, there is no religious, human, or rational reason for the Taliban attack under the pretext of fighting to install the Islamic system in Panjshir, Andarab, Parwan, Kapisa or other parts of Afghanistan."National Resistance Front of Afghanistan
"The NRF agrees in principle with resolving the current problems and the immediate cessation of hostilities, and the continuation of the negotiation process and hopes that the Taliban will respond to the request of the clerics and take practical steps toward this end," said the group on Facebook in a statement.
The hardline Islamist organisation Taliban had seized power in Afghanistan on 15 August. Two days later, on 17 August, the flag of the Northern Resistance Front was hoisted in Panjshir for the first time since 2001, marking the revival of the revolutionary movement against the Taliban.
NRF Loses Spokesperson Fahim Dashty, General Zara in Fight Against Taliban
The NRF on Sunday lost two of its commanders – group spokesperson Fahim Dashty, as well as Massoud's nephew, General Abdul Wudod Zara – in the battle with the Taliban.
Dashty had been posting regular updates on the situation in Panjshir on Twitter till late on Sunday.
As the Taliban penetrated deep into the valley on Saturday, about 600 insurgents were killed by the Panjshir fighters, Dashty had indicated in a tweet.
'Taliban Is Committing Genocide and the World Is Watching': NRF
The Head of Foreign Relations at the NRF, Ali Maisam Hazary, on Sunday said that the world is a passive observer to the Taliban's genocidal operation in Panjshir Valley.
"International terrorism (Taliban/Al Qaeda) is committing genocide tonight in Panjshir & the world is watching & observing. Saadi was wrong when he said “Human beings are like parts of a body/created from the same essence/when one part is in pain/ the others cannot remain in peace,” he stated on Twitter.
The 'Caretaker President' of Afghanistan, Amrullah Saleh, a member of the Panjshir resistance, has written to the United Nations (UN) on the crisis in the north-eastern valley, claiming that the province was looking at a full-scale "humanitarian catastrophe," which might result in the "genocide" of the Afghan people.
In the letter, he appealed to the UN to intervene to prevent further bloodshed and suffering.
"We call on the United Nations and the international community to do its utmost to prevent Taliban's onslaught into Panjshir province and encourage negotiate a political solution to ensure thousands of displaced and hosting civilians are saved," Saleh said.