KABUL: The Taliban claimed victory over opposition forces in the Panjshir valley northeast of Kabul on Monday, declaring that they had completed their takeover of Afghanistan and promising to announce a new government soon.
Pictures on social media showed Taliban members standing in front of the gate of the Panjshir provincial governor's compound after fighting over the weekend with the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NRFA), commanded by Panjshiri leader Ahmad Massoud.
"Panjshir, which was the last hideout of the escapee enemy, is captured," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told a news conference.
The Taliban assured the people of Panjshir, who are ethnically distinct from the Pashtun-dominated Taliban and fought against the Islamists during their 1996-2001 rule, that there would be no "discriminatory act against them".
"They are our brothers and would work together for a joint purpose and welfare of the country," Mujahid said.
However, Massoud, who leads a force drawn from the remnants of the regular Afghan army as well as local militia fighters, remained defiant and did not concede defeat.
"We are in Panjshir and our Resistance will continue," he said on Twitter.
His exact whereabouts were unclear. He also said he was safe, but gave no details.
Taliban spokesman Mujahid said he had been told that Massoud and former vice president Amrullah Saleh had escaped to neighbouring Tajikistan.
Ali Maisam Nazary, head of foreign relations at NRFA, said the Taliban's claim of victory was false and opposition forces continued to fight.
"The NRF forces are present in all strategic positions across the valley to continue the fight," he said on his Facebook page.
Mujahid denied there were any disagreements within the movement about the formation of a new government and said it would be announced soon, but he did not set a date.
He also said women were back at work in the health and education sectors and "other fields will be provided, one by one, once the system has been established for them".
The militants, who swept back into to power last month as the United States withdrew its troops after a 20-year war, banned girls and women from schools and most work when they last ruled the country.
The group has now said women would be allowed to work across important sectors of society, in line with Islamic law, and their rights would be protected.