Taliban fighters entered Afghanistan’s presidential palace hours after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country on Sunday, a milestone in the insurgent group’s assumption of control over the capital city Kabul.
One unit shared pictures of the palace interior – intact, but empty and apparently abandoned by Afghan officials – on an official Telegram account.
Taliban representatives had been in talks with the government for hours over who would rule the nation, following the militant group’s strikingly rapid advance across the country, in which it seized power over dozens of key cities, often with little to no resistance.
Who are the Taliban?
The Taliban are a Sunni Islamist organization operating primarily in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
They formed in 1994 under the leadership of Mullah Mohammed Omar a few years after the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan. They were members of the Afghan resistance fighters, known collectively as mujahedeen, who were students of Omar.
Taliban, in Pashto, is the plural of Talib, which means student.
The group’s aim is to impose its interpretation of Islamic law on Afghanistan and remove foreign influence from the country.
The group started gaining ground in 1994 and captured the capital city of Kabul in September 1996. They had a controlling presence in the country between 1996 to 2001.
During those years, the group imposed strict Islamic laws on the Afghan people. Women had to wear head-to-toe coverings, were not allowed to attend school or work outside the home and were forbidden to travel alone. Television, music and non-Islamic holidays were also banned.
Omar led the Taliban from the mid-1990s until his death in 2013. Omar formed a relationship with Osama Bin Laden in 1997.
Less than a month after terrorists linked to al Qaeda carried out the 9/11 attacks, American and allied forces began an invasion of Afghanistan called Operation Enduring Freedom, to stop the Taliban from providing a safe-haven to al Qaeda and to stop al Qaeda’s use of Afghanistan as a base of operations for terrorist activities.
On Dec. 7, 2001 the Taliban lost its last major stronghold as the city of Kandahar fell.
Read more about the group here.
CNN's Clarissa Ward, Tim Lister, Angela Dewan and Saleem Mehsud contributed reporting to this post.