The deputy governor of Nimruz province in southwest Afghanistan says its capital city has fallen to the Taliban, making it the first provincial capital to be overrun by Taliban fighters since American forces began their withdrawal. The attack on Zaranj marks an escalation in the Taliban campaign, which has mainly focused on capturing rural areas, reports the Washington Post. The group is now believed to control more than half of Afghanistan's 421 districts and is putting increasing pressure on cities including Kandahar and Lashkar Gah, capital of Helmand province, the BBC reports. US and Afghan government forces launched airstrikes on Taliban positions in Lashkar Gah Thursday night.
The reported fall of Zaranj came as the director of Afghanistan's government media center was killed in a Taliban ambush in Kabul, the AP reports. The Taliban said Dawa Khan Menapal was "punished for his deeds" in a "special attack." He was assassinated days after eight people were killed in a bombing during a failed attempt to assassinate the country's acting defense minister. As the Taliban gain ground, more than 30,000 people a week are fleeing the country, and many more have been displaced internally, reports the New York Times. (Read more Afghanistan stories.)