Afghan Rebels Grab Kandahar Airport after Shocking World with Kabul Sweep
Troops of Afghanistan's rebel Northern Alliance on Tuesday poured into the capital Kabul, said CNN, as their forces also captured an airport near Kandahar, the southern stronghold of the Taliban Islamic militia.
Al Jazeera television reported that "Kandahar airport has fallen to the Northern Alliance Forces" in a report immediately denied by the Taliban.
However, the Qatar-based station's correspondent in Kandahar later clarified that it was "not the main airport for Kandahar."
The captured airport was deserted and located 50-70 kilometers (30-40 miles) outside the city, close to the border with Pakistan, the reporter said.
"Kandahar airbase is still under our control and there is no problem," said a Taliban spokesman, quoted by the Afghan Islamic Press (AIP).
Al Jazeera had earlier reported firing to the northwest of the city. "Shooting carried on for 15-20 minutes," the correspondent said.
"Maybe they have already arrived," the reporter added, referring to the Afghan opposition, which has swept down from the north backed by US air strikes.
Reports said that the capital, despite the victory of the northern rebels, came under attacks by the US warplanes, while the rebel forces were cleaning the city's "pockets of Taliban resistance."
Al Jazeera reported later that US elite forces landed at an airbase near Kabul.
The CNN reporter told Al Jazeera, under an agreement between the two networks, that he had not witnessed any violence on the part of the alliance against civilians, contrary to what Al Jazeera Kandahar's correspondent said of looting and executions with no trials of pro-Taliban residents.
The correspondent said that Kandahar city was tense during the morning and that military roadblocks had been set up in several areas.
Opposition forces seized the capital, Kabul, at dawn Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Al Jazeera's office in Kabul and a residence of one of its employees there were hit by opposition fire, but nobody was reported wounded in either place.
The station also reported that North Alliance Forces were moving to Jalalabad, another key city in the country.
WORLD TAKEN BY SURPRISE
The lightning capture of Kabul by anti-Taliban forces caught the world by surprise Tuesday, but Pakistan was swift to voice its suspicion of an Afghanistan dominated by the fractious Northern Alliance, according to AFP.
The US administration was slowly digesting the news that the Afghan capital had been abandoned by the Taliban in the face of a headlong Northern Alliance sweep down from northern Afghanistan backed by US air strikes.
Pakistan, which until the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks had supported the Taliban, renewed its demand for a broad-based government to replace the fundamentalist Islamic militia.
"Our position is that it is better if Kabul remains demilitarized and no single entity takes over Kabul," foreign office spokesman Aziz Ahmed Khan told AFP.
Top US officials pondered the fallout from an unexpected turn of events that came only three days after President George W. Bush urged Afghan opposition forces to stay away from the capital until a post-Taliban regime could be worked out.
"We've seen reports, we are evaluating the reports, and at the moment the situation on the ground is very fluid," White House spokeswoman Jeanie Mamo told AFP.
Britain, the front-line partner of the US military operation designed to smoke out alleged terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden, called for United Nations involvement in post-Taliban Afghanistan, said the agency.
"The UN and the rest of the international community needs to address the situation as we find it in Kabul, with the aim remaining a broad-based interim government which reflects the diversity of the country and to which all within Afghanistan have access," a foreign office statement said.
And French President Jacques Chirac said in Abu Dhabi Tuesday, after the fall of Kabul to opposition forces, that it was "extremely urgent" to find a broad-based political solution for Afghanistan - Albawaba.com
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