Northern Alliance Claims Heavy Taliban Losses
Anti-Taliban forces headed by General Rashid Dostam, military head of Afghanistan's Uzbek minority, killed 80 fighters of the ruling militia Monday while pushing towards a strategic northern Afghan town, his aides said Monday.
A spokesman for Dostam based in the Tajik capital told AFP that another 200 Taliban fighters had been taken prisoner in fighting around the city of Mazar-i-Sharif, which has been controlled by the Taliban since 1997.
The Northern Alliance official said that only five anti-Taliban fighters had been killed in the fighting.
Neither of the figures could be independently confirmed.
Dostam is a leading opponent of the ruling Taliban regime in Afghanistan which has been sheltering Osama bin Laden, seen by Washington as the primary suspect behind the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.
Dostam was a powerful warlord before the Taliban gained control of Kabul in 1996 and was eventually pushed out of his northern strongholds in 1998.
He returned to Afghanistan from exile in Turkey in April with plans to open a new front against the Taliban in the north of the country, alongside longtime opposition chief Ahmad Shah Masood.
Masood died on September 15 from injuries sustained in a suicide bomb attack at his headquarters in northeastern Afghanistan -- DUSHANBE (AFP)
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