The Taliban militant group in Afghanistan says it has gained control over a strategic route linking the south of the country to Pakistan.
The Taliban "have captured an important border town called Wesh in Kandahar," spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid claimed in a statement on Wednesday.
The town of Wesh is in Spin Boldak district in Kandahar Province, situated next to the Durand border with Pakistan.
"With this, the important road between (Spin) Boldak and Chaman and Kandahar customs have come under Mujahideen (Taliban) control," he said.
The Taliban spokesperson assured traders and residents there that along the trade route, their "security is guaranteed."
Afghan officials, however, insisted that the government troops still had control. "The terrorist Taliban had some movements near the border area... The security forces have repelled the attack," Interior Ministry spokesman Tareq Arian told AFP.
The situation in the region has yet to be confirmed by other Afghan officials.
Earlier, Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani expressed hope that the security situation in his country would improve. The Taliban have also talked of plans to limit fighting to the areas outside Afghan cities.
Ghani, blamed the Taliban militant group for the ongoing "bloodshed and destruction" in Afghanistan, and vowed not to "surrender" to their demands.
The Afghan president, who was visiting Balkh Province on Tuesday to inspect the security situation of the northern areas amid reports of heavy clashes between government troops and the militant forces, insisted that soon "the Taliban's backbone will be broken."
Ghani, who met with a number of civil society activists, women's rights activists, and journalists during his visit to Balkh, said that the security situation across the country would improve significantly in the next three months, according to Afghanistan's Tolo news agency.
In related news, a government official told Reuters on the condition of anonymity that senior Afghan leaders were set to fly to the Qatari capital, Doha, to resume peace talks with the Taliban representatives this week.
The high-level eight-member delegation will include senior Afghan peace official Abdullah Abdullah and former president Hamid Karzai.
The delegation from Kabul and the Taliban representatives are expected to discuss ways of expediting the peace talks.
Meanwhile, the Taliban have intensified their offensives across several provinces, with their primary focus in the past months being the north despite advancements elsewhere.
In the north, the violence has forced Afghan families to flee their homes.
Meanwhile, Amir Khan Muttaqi, a senior Taliban leader, claimed that the militants did not want to battle government forces inside cities, urging troops to surrender to the Taliban.
"Now that the fighting from mountains and deserts has reached the doors of the cities, Mujahiddin (Taliban) don't want fighting inside the city," the senior militant leader said in a message tweeted on Tuesday.
Hours after Muttaqi's remarks, a bomb blast in the center of the capital Kabul killed four civilians and wounded 11 others, police reported.
The United Nations refugee agency has warned that the surge in violence has put the war-ravaged country on the brink of a humanitarian crisis.
In the meantime, the United States is just weeks away from completing a full withdrawal from Afghanistan.
US President Joe Biden has set the date of the complete exit of the United States from Afghanistan for September.
The US invaded Afghanistan in 2001, claiming that the Taliban were harboring al-Qaeda terrorists, who had just carried out the September 11 attacks in the United States.