The Taliban on Friday denied that Reuters India chief photographer Danish Siddiqui was killed by them knowingly, saying that it was not clear whose shooting caught him in the crossfire between them and the Afghan forces, reported NDTV.

“You can’t say he [Siddiqui] was killed by our fighters,” Muhammad Sohail Shaheen, the spokesperson of the Taliban’s political office in Doha, Qatar, told NDTV. “Ask why he didn’t coordinate with us. We have announced to journalists not once but many times that when they come to our places, please coordinate with us and we will provide you security.”

Siddiqui was killed on July 16 while covering clashes between Afghanistan security forces and the Taliban in Kandahar city. An Afghan commander had told Reuters that the 38-year-old was caught in Taliban crossfire.

The Taliban spokesperson said that Siddiqui was travelling along with the Afghan forces and there was no difference “whether they are security personnel or militia or soldiers of Kabul or a journalist among them”.

Shaheen also denied reports that Siddiqui was captured, executed and his body mutilated. “We have rejected the mutilation allegation two-three times,” he told NDTV. “It is not our policy. It is possible that security forces did it to malign us. It is against the rules of Islam to mutilate dead bodies.”

The spokesperson said that journalists are free to come to their areas and file reports. “They can open branches in our areas to see the ground reality with their own eyes,” he told the news channel in an interview.

Shaheen also claimed that the Taliban has taken control of 90% of Afghanistan.

According to media reports, 18 of the 34 provincial capitals are now under the Taliban’s control as of Friday. These are Ghazni, Aybak, Kunduz, Taluqan, Faizabad, Pul-e-Khumri, Pul-e Alam, Terenkot, Kandahar, Lashkar Gah, Zaranj, Farah, Herat, Feruz Koh, Qala-e Naw, Sar-e-Pul, Sheberghan and Qalat.

While Kabul, the country’s capital, is not under direct threat yet, the Taliban are making rapid advances and are in control of two-thirds of Afghanistan. Of Afghanistan’s major cities, the government still holds Mazar-i-Sharif in the north and Jalalabad, near the Pakistani border in the east.

Clashes between the Taliban and Afghan forces have escalated as foreign troops prepare to withdraw from the country by the end of August. More than 1,000 people have been killed in Afghanistan in the last month, the BBC reported, citing the United Nations.

Ongoing peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in Doha have failed to yield any result so far. The government reportedly made a power-sharing proposal to the Taliban for brokering peace, Al Jazeera reported. However, there has been no official confirmation on the matter.

During the interview with NDTV, the Taliban spokesperson said that it was up to India to decide if the country is their friend or enemy.

“See, if India provides guns, arms and ammunition to the people of Afghanistan to create unrest against us, then that will certainly be seen as an act of enmity,” he said. “But if India works for the peace and prosperity of the nation, then it will be seen as not a move in enmity.”

Shaheen also said that there was a meeting with the Taliban in which an Indian delegation was also present.

“You say Taliban is backed by Pakistan, but I think you say that because of your [India’s] enmity with Pakistan, not really about the ground situation in Afghanistan,” he added.

On groups such as ISIS or Al Qaeda, the spokesperson said that if the Taliban came to power, they would not allow the terrorist organisations to operate from Afghanistan.