Taliban fighters lounge in fleeing military leader's mansion
Taliban militants entered the palace of a notorious Afghan strongmen in the Balkh Province, who had vowed to defend the country from the insurgents' advance, according to a video circulating on social media.
Gun-wielding militants were seen lounging on gold-plated furniture and admiring ornate tea sets in the home of military leader Abdul Rashid Dostum, a former Afghan vice president and a US ally, who had promised the Taliban bloodshed and vengeance.
"This time I will really kill you," 67-year-old Dostum had said, according to British newspaper The Sun.
"They will never escape. They will all be killed. I will turn northern Afghanistan into the graveyard of the Taliban."
Dostum fled on Saturday as the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif fell to the Taliban and security forces abandoned the city in a headlong rush up the highway to the safety of neighbouring Uzbekistan, Reuters reported.
Atta Mohammad Noor, Governor of the Balkh province and a second renowned strongman, also left the province together with Dostum, the news agency reported.
The footage circulating on social media on Saturday, according to Saudi news channel Al-Arabiya, marks the capitulation of one of the Taliban’s biggest foes and a key player in Afghanistan since the 1980s.
Taliban inside Gen. Dostum's house after he flees from Mazar. Watching Afghanistan collapse in real time on social media is mind-boggling... https://t.co/v1GwpnMGF4— Farnaz Fassihi (@farnazfassihi) August 14, 2021
Noor had been commanding militia forces when the city was captured. He said on Twitter that both he and Dostum were safe, while blaming a "conspiracy" for the fall of the north to the Taliban.
"Despite our firm resistance, sadly, all the government and the #ANDSF equipments were handed over to the #Taliban as a result of a big organised & cowardly plot," Noor wrote on Twitter.
"They had orchestrated the plot to trap Marshal Dostum and myself too, but they didn't succeed."
The Taliban raced closer to a complete military takeover of Afghanistan on Sunday after capturing more major cities, leaving only the isolated capital Kabul for them to conquer.
The insurgents took control of the key eastern city of Jalalabad on Sunday, just hours after seizing the northern anti-Taliban bastion of Mazar-i-Sharif - extending an astonishing rout of government forces and warlord militias achieved in just 10 days.
US President Joe Biden ordered the deployment of an additional 1,000 American troops to help secure the emergency evacuation from Kabul of embassy employees and thousands of Afghans who worked for American forces and now fear Taliban reprisals.