India has asked its nationals to leave Afghanistan today on a “special flight” from Mazar-i-Sharif – the country’s fourth largest city – amid intense fighting with the Taliban.
“A special flight is leaving from Mazar-e-Sharif to New Delhi. Any Indian nationals in and around Mazar-e-Sharif are requested to leave for India in the special flight scheduled to depart late today evening,” the Indian consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif tweeted.
It asked Indian citizens who want to leave by the special flight to submit the details like their full name and passport number to the consulate immediately. Around 1,500 Indians are currently staying in Afghanistan, according to government data.
Last month India pulled out around 50 diplomats and security personnel from its consulate in Kandahar following intense clashes between Afghan forces and Taliban fighters around the city.
The Taliban said Monday they had turned their sights on Mazar-i-Sharif.
A spokesperson of the insurgents announced on social media that they had launched a four-pronged attack on the city. They have already captured Sheberghan to its west and Kunduz and Taloqan in the east.
New Delhi has been supporting a national peace and reconciliation process that is Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled.
Mazar-i-Sharif is the largest city in the north and considered a linchpin to the government’s control over the area.
Afghanistan’s long-running conflict has escalated dramatically since May, when the US-led military coalition began the pullout of its forces – the exercise is set to be completed before the end of the month.
As the Taliban have taken control of several districts across the country, US intelligence assessments have suggested the country’s civilian government could fall to the terror group within months of US forces withdrawing.
(With PTI inputs)