Herat, Afghanistan’s third largest city, has mostly been taken over by Taliban insurgents, a provincial official told Reuters on Friday.
The official, Ghulam Habib Hashimo, said government forces were only in control of the airport and an army camp in the city of about 600,000 people, which is close to the border with Iran.
“Families have either left or are hiding in their houses,” he said.
Hours after seizing the city, a group of insurgents pulled down an Afghan flag from a police station as cars and bicycles passed in seemingly normal traffic.
Others stood on the bonnet of a humvee vehicle that had been abandoned by the retreating government troops.
One insurgent gave the hint of a smile while looking into a camera, with a rocket-propelled grenade on his shoulder.
The white flag of the Taliban waved through the air on a pole pegged to a motorcycle.
Like in other cities lost to the Taliban over the past week, authorities claimed they gave up to avoid bloodshed among civilians.
“We had to leave the city in order to prevent further destruction,” a senior security source from Herat told AFP, adding that troops and city officials had retreated to army barracks outside of Herat.