About 600 Taliban fighters were killed on Saturday in Afghanistan’s northeastern Panjshir province, the stronghold of resistance against the insurgent group in the country, Sputnik News reported.

National Resistance Front’s official spokesperson Fahim Dashti on Saturday claimed that several Taliban fighters had either been captured or had surrendered. He added that the Taliban’s supply from other provinces was cut off and that their equipment was taken away by the Panjshir resistance forces.

Panjshir is among the few areas in Afghanistan that is still not under the control of Taliban. The Taliban seized control of Afghanistan on August 15, entering the presidential palace in capital Kabul and ending its insurgent offensive that had ripped through the country in 10 days. The group made swift advances and captured key Afghan cities as foreign troops prepared to withdraw from the country by the end of August.

A source from the Taliban had said that their effort at Panjshir was slowed down due to the landmines placed on the route to provincial capital of Bazark, Al Jazeera reported. The insurgents claimed that they were eliminating the mines while they continued their offensive.

Taliban spokesperson Bilal Karimi claimed that the Khinj and Unabah districts in Panjshir were captured. He added that the Taliban fighters were now advancing towards the centre of the Panjshir province.

However, National Resistance Front of Afghanistan chief Ahmad Massoud said that they had surrounded thousands of Taliban fighters in the Khawak pass northwest of Panjshir valley, Reuters reported. Many of the insurgent fighters had been forced to leave their vehicles and equipment in the Dashte Rewak area, he added.

Massoud insisted that Panjshir “continues to stand strongly”. He also praised the demonstration by women for their rights in western Afghan city of Heart for “they had no fear of threats”.

The National Resistance Front, also known as the Panjshir resistance, comprises Afghanistan’s special forces, Army units and local fighters, according to Al Jazeera. They are positioned in a narrow gorge 80 km from Kabul with armoury. Massoud, who leads the forces, is the son of prominent Afghan leader Ahmad Shah Massoud who resisted the Soviet control in 1980s.

On August 22, Massoud had said that he wanted a dialogue with the Taliban but his forces were ready to fight them. “We want to make the Taliban realise that the only way forward is through negotiation,” he had said.

Meanwhile, Amrullah Saleh, vice president in the now ousted Afghan government, called on the United Nations, other international agencies and non-government organisations to respond to the “overwhelming humanitarian crisis” in Panjshir, the Hindustan Times reported.

Saleh is Massoud’s brother and one of the prominent leaders of the resistance forces. He had declared himself as Aghanistan’s acting president after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan.

“We call on the United Nations and the international community to do its utmost to prevent the Taliban’s onslaught into Panjshir province and encourage negotiate a political solution to ensure thousands of displaced and hosting civilians are saved,” Saleh said in a letter dated September 3.

17 dead in Taliban celebratory gunfire: Reports

At least 17 people died in celebratory gunfire late on Thursday after the Taliban claimed that they had seized control of Panjshir, Reuters reported. The resistance front continues to deny reports that the Taliban has conquered Panjshir.

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid criticised the gunfire. On Twitter, he requested the Taliban fighters to avoid shooting in the air and to thank god instead, as bullets could harm the civilians.

Though the Taliban seized control over Afghanistan on August 15, they have not yet formalised a government to rule the country. Taliban sources have claimed that the announcement would take place next week, according to Reuters. However, it has already been delayed two times.

Abdul Ghani Baradar, the co-founder of Taliban, is expected to lead the new government.

ISI chief in Kabul

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence chief, Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed made an unannounced visit to Kabul on Thursday, Channel 4 reported.

On Saturday night, he said it was not clear whether he would be meeting the senior leadership in Taliban but said things were under control. “We are working for peace and stability in Afghanistan,” he said. “Don’t worry, everything will be okay.”