By James Mackenzie and Alasdair Pal
(Reuters) -The Taliban has surrounded the only remaining province resisting its rule, a senior leader said on Wednesday, calling on rebels to negotiate a settlement with the group.
Since the fall of Kabul on Aug. 15, mountainous Panjshir has been the only province to hold out against the Islamist group, although there has also been fighting in neighbouring Baghlan province between Taliban and local militia forces.
Under the leadership of Ahmad Massoud, son of a former Mujahideen commander, several thousand members of local militias and remnants of army and special forces units have been holding out against the Taliban.
In a recorded speech addressed to Afghans in Panjshir, senior Taliban leader Amir Khan Motaqi called on the rebels to put down their weapons.
“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is home for all Afghans,” he said.
The Taliban have declared an amnesty for all Afghans who worked with foreign forces during the past two decades but crowds fearing reprisals have continued to flock to the borders in an attempt to flee the land-locked country.
Motaqi said the Taliban had made many efforts to negotiate with leaders of the opposition forces in Panjshir, “but unfortunately, unfortunately, without any result”.
NO REASON TO FIGHT
Taliban forces are making preparations around the four sides of the Panjshir valley and there is no reason to fight, Motaqi said, adding that the anti-Taliban forces should keep in mind that it had not been possible to defeat the Taliban even with the support of NATO and U.S. forces.
“But we are still trying to ensure that there is no war and that the issue in Panjshir is resolved calmly and peacefully,” Motaqi said.
The remarks came after at least seven Taliban fighters were killed during an attempt to advance into the valley, according to two resistance leaders.
Italian aid group Emergency said four dead and five wounded had been delivered to its trauma hospital in Kabul from the fighting around the Gulbahar area at the entrance to Panjshir.
A spokesman for the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan, which groups the forces in the Panjshir valley, said on Wednesday Taliban forces had launched an offensive two days ago, and had been attacking in three or four different areas but had so far been pushed back.
(Reporting by James Mackenzie and Alasdair PalEditing by Gareth Jones and Jonathan Oatis)