The Taliban have seized ninth provincial capital in Afghanistan in less than a week as the group is pushing ahead with a rapid offensive to overrun the country. Local officials say the militants are now in control of Faizabad in the northeast following days of heavy fighting. The group seems to have tightened further their grip on northern Afghanistan with the capture of the capital of Badakhshan Province. The gain came hours after the militants took the capital cities of Baghlan province and the western border province of Farah. The Taliban have seized dozens of districts and border crossings in recent weeks and is now battling for several key cities. They have intensified their offensive following the withdrawal of US-led foreign forces.
Korean Peninsula tensions
North Korea says the South and the United States are risking 'a huge security crisis' by choosing to escalate tensions. State media cited a top Workers’ Party official as saying that Seoul and Washington have responded to Pyongyang's goodwill with hostile acts. The statement comes a day after Pyongyang slammed Seoul for going ahead with its annual military exercises with the US even after the North agreed to restore inter-Korean hotlines in late July. On Tuesday, North Korea stopped answering routine calls on the hotlines. The United States has more than 28,000 troops in South Korea. Pyongyang has always criticized Washington-Seoul joint military drills and viewed them as a threat.
Australian authorities have extended a lockdown in Melbourne for another seven days after failing to curb the latest COVID outbreak. Five million residents of Australia's second-largest city will remain under stay-at-home orders until August 19. That's mainly due to the emergence of a fresh outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant. Melbourne has been under lockdown for six weeks. Sydney is also in its seventh week of lockdown, putting more than five million people under stay-at-home orders. Australia’s total coronavirus cases have exceeded 37,000 while the death toll stands at over 940.