Taliban Confirms Opposition Takeover of Strategic Town
Afghanistan's ruling Taliban confirmed Monday that opposition forces had captured the town of Zaare near the strategic northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, the Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported.
Taliban spokesman Abdul Hai Mutmaen told AIP that Zaare had fallen to the opposition in heavy fighting, but added that much of the surrounding district remained under Taliban control.
He also denied opposition claims to have taken over the nearby district of Keshanda, saying an assault on the area had been repulsed.
Abdul Rashid Dostam, one of the most powerful warlords in the anti-Taliban opposition, had said on Sunday that his forces had ousted the Taliban from Zaare, some 100 kilometers (60 miles) from Mazar-i-Sharif.
Zaare's strategic importance lies in its location on a highway linking the provinces of Balkh, Jozjan and Samangan.
Fighting has intensified in northern Afghanistan in recent days, with the opposition seemingly emboldened by the prospect of US military strikes on the Taliban, which they have pledged to support.
US attack helicopters are already reported to be waiting in Uzbekistan, bordering Balkh province to the north.
The AIP report on Monday quoted unidentified Taliban sources as saying the opposition forces had also launched three successive assaults on Sange Bordo, 90 kilometers northeast of Kabul in Kapisa province.
The attacks were beaten back by the Taliban militia, the sources said -- ISLAMABAD (AFP)
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