(This was originally posted in Hindustan Times by Meenakshi Roy)
Ahmad Massoud, the leader of the resistance forces in Panjshir valley, is still in Afghanistan but 70 percent of the main streets in Panjshir are under the control of the Taliban, Iranian news agency Fars has reported citing people familiar with the situation. Fars reported on Saturday that rumours about Massoud, the son of late former Afghan guerrilla commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, leaving Afghanistan for Turkey or any other place are false and the resistance leader is said to be in a safe place.
The Taliban have said that they have captured the Afghan province of Panjshir, the last resistance stronghold in the country, a claim denied by the National Resistance Front (NRF) led by Massoud and former Afghan vice president Amrullah Saleh, who has declared himself caretaker president. Panjshir was the last Afghan province holding out against the Taliban who swept to power last month and have now declared an interim government. The NRF said that the resistance forces are present at all strategic positions across the valley to continue the fight.
“In recent days, the Taliban entered Panjshir and now 70 per cent of the main streets and passages are under their control, but the valleys of Panjshir are still under the complete control of the popular forces,” Qassem Mohammadi, who is said to be close to Massaoud, was quoted as saying by Fars. Ahmad Massoud last Monday called for a “national uprising” against the Taliban in an audio message sent to media. “Wherever you are, inside or outside, I call on you to begin a national uprising for the dignity, freedom and prosperity of our country,” Ahmad Massoud said, according to Al Jazeera.
Last Wednesday, the ousted Afghan government’s ambassador to Tajikistan said Ahmad Shah Massoud and Amrullah Saleh have not fled Afghanistan and their resistance forces are still fighting the Taliban. Zahir Aghbar, envoy to Dushanbe under the government of ousted Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, said he was in regular contact with Saleh and that the resistance leaders were out of general communication for security reasons. “Ahmad Massoud and Amrullah Saleh have not fled to Tajikistan. The news that Ahmad Massoud has left Panjshir is not true; he is inside Afghanistan. I am in constant contact with Amrullah Saleh, who is currently in Panjshir and running the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan’s government,” he said during a press conference.
Videos circulating on social media purportedly show a Taliban fighter in the place where Amurallah Saleh shot a message Meanwhile, Saleh’s nephew said on Saturday that the Taliban shot dead the brother of Amrullah Saleh and his driver in Panjshir province. Shuresh Saleh said his uncle Rohullah Azizi was going somewhere in a car on Thursday when Taliban fighters stopped him at a checkpoint. “As we hear at the moment Taliban shot him and his driver at the checkpoint,” he was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.