The Taliban seized a sixth Afghan provincial capital on Monday following a weekend blitz across the north that saw urban centres fall in quick succession and the government struggle to keep the militants at bay. Insurgents entered Aibak without a fight after community elders pleaded with officials to spare the city from more violence following weeks of clashes on the outskirts, said Sefatullah Samangani, deputy governor of Samangan province. “The governor accepted and withdrew all the forces from the city,” Samangani added, saying the Taliban were now in “full control”. A Taliban spokesman confirmed the city had been taken. The insurgents have overrun five provincial capitals across the north, sparking fears the government is rapidly losing control of the region. They have also taken Zaranj, capital of Nimroz province, in the southwest. Earlier Monday, the Taliban said they were moving in on Mazar-i-Sharif-the largest city in the north and a linchpin for the government’s control of the region-after capturing Sheberghan to its west, and Kunduz and Taloqan to its east. A spokesman said Taliban fighters had entered the city, but officials-and residents contacted by phone-said the group was exaggerating, with clashes confined to surrounding districts. “The enemy is trying to distort public opinion and create anxiety for the civilian population by their propaganda,” said a statement from the provincial police force in Balkh, where Mazar-i-Sharif is the capital. Mazar’s longtime strongman Atta Mohammad Noor vowed to fight to the end, saying there would be “resistance until the last drop of my blood”. “I prefer dying in dignity than dying in despair,” he tweeted. The loss of the city, steeped in history and long an economic hub, would signal the collapse of Kabul’s control of the north and likely raise major questions about the future of the government. In neighbouring Kunduz, the second-largest city in the north that fell to the Taliban Sunday, residents said insurgents were all over the city, occupying government offices and institutions.