• AFP-JIJI

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India has evacuated about 50 diplomats and security personnel from its consulate in Kandahar, the former Taliban bastion in southern Afghanistan, after days of intense fighting, officials and a security source said Sunday.

The insurgents claimed this week that they now control 85% of Afghanistan, much of it seized since early May when U.S.-led foreign forces began their final withdrawal from the country.

The Taliban also clashed with government forces this week on the edge of Kandahar city, the capital of Kandahar province, where the hard-line Islamist movement was born.

“The Consulate General of India has not been closed. However, due to the intense fighting near Kandahar city, India-based personnel have been brought back for the time being,” India’s Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement.

“This is purely a temporary measure until the situation stabilizes. The consulate continues to operate through our local staff members.”

A security source said about 50 Indian personnel, including some six diplomats, have been evacuated from the consulate.

It was still unclear whether they were brought to Kabul or evacuated to New Delhi.

Last week Russia announced it had closed its consulate in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

Earlier this month China also evacuated 210 nationals from the country.

The Taliban’s rapid gains have seen their fighters capture key border crossings and even attack a provincial capital.

The U.S. withdrawal is now more than 90% complete, the Pentagon announced this month, and President Joe Biden said Thursday the U.S. military mission would end on August 31.

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