Locals live in fear of Taliban taking over Afghanistan as the country witnesses a number of attacks by the armed group.
Hundreds of cars, buses and trucks have been stuck between the Afghan cities of Kabul and Kandahar since the Taliban blocked the main highway south of the capital on Monday.
The security forces have engaged in battles with fighters to reopen transport in the Nawrak area of Zabul province as the Taliban seeks to gain territory.
Mohammed Arif with his wife and four children are among those stranded along the highway, the main link between the capital and the southern city of Kandahar.
We are in a desperate situation. We are planning on travelling to Ghazni on a different route, but it will be a dangerous path.
Arif’s wife and children have spent two night out in the open, sleeping on the side of the road.
“We are stuck here and don’t know until when,” Arif told Al Jazeera. “My children are hungry. We are in a desperate situation. We are planning on travelling to Ghazni on a different route, but it will be a dangerous path.”
A Taliban commander who is currently on the highway is adamant on not clearing the area until the fighters are asked to do so by his newly appointed leader, Mullah Akhtar Mansoor.
“We’ve blocked the highway on orders of our Emir [Mullah Mansoor],” Khalid Mansoor, the commander, told Al Jazeera. “We will make sure to fight the enemies [foreign forces] out of our country and bring in the Islamic law. We’ve taken control of most of the areas.”
Nearly two months after Taliban appointed Mullah Mansoor as its leader, the armed group has captured new territories in northern and eastern Afghanistan.
‘No one killed’
According to the Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, the group is working on helping travellers to take different routes.
“No one was killed during the seize. We are looking into helping them get to their destination,” Mujahid told Al Jazeera.
However, Arif is worried for his family and wants to safely reach the city of Ghazni, located between Kandahar and Kabul.
“We were stopped by the Taliban asking us to not move or else we will get shot,” said Arif. “We are terrified and worried for our lives.”
Arif said there are people in urgent need of medical attention among the stranded travellers.
Mohammed Naiem Lalay Hamidzai, Kandahar lawmaker and part of a parliamentary commission, told Al Jazeera the Taliban has buried explosives near the Asfandi and Shahbaz areas on the outskirts of Ghazni city.
“Travellers have fled to nearby districts to seek shelter as they don’t feel safe. It is a dangerous situation,” said Hamidzai. “I want to urge the Afghan government to do something about their [travellers’] food and water supply as old men and women with children are stuck there.”
According to sources, fighters are refraining people in several areas of Ghazni to commute.
The highway siege came as the Taliban claimed withdrawal from the centre of the northern city of Kunduz after weeks of intense fighting against Afghan troops backed by US air strikes.
As fighting spreads in provinces neighbouring Kunduz, the rise in insurgency has dealt a major blow to the country’s NATO-trained security forces and highlights the Taliban’s potential to expand beyond its rural strongholds.
The Taliban claims that fighters have taken over 35 of Afghanistan’s 398 districts, in 34 provinces, so far.