Tribal Militia Captures Afghan Town near Kandahar
Tribal forces have captured a strategic town near the embattled Taliban militia's southern base of Kandahar, cutting off the main road to Pakistan, a tribal elder told AFP Saturday.
The news came as more Taliban fighters surrendered in the area of Kunduz, the Islamic militia's remaining stronghold in the north which has been under siege by troops of the rival Northern Alliance for two weeks.
Hamid Karzai, former deputy foreign minister and Pashtun tribal leader, said local militia had attacked the Taliban on Friday around Takhtapul, some 45 kilometers (30 miles) southeast of Kandahar.
"People rose up against the Taliban and liberated the area. The Taliban tried to counter attack and re-take the area but they couldn't," Karzai said via satellite phone from southern Afghanistan.
"A district between Spin Boldak and Kandahar has been liberated and presumably the road from Kandahar to Pakistan has been cut off."
Spin Boldak is the main town near the Pakistani border, while Kandahar is the Taliban's spiritual and military stronghold in the south and the home of the movement's leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar.
The road through Takhtapul to the Pakistani border is one possible rout of escape for Taliban leaders or members of Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network based in Kandahar.
More fighting between the Taliban and local tribes was reported Saturday in the southeast, in the area of Arghastan about 100 kilometers (60 miles) east of Kandahar near the border with Pakistan.
A Taliban spokesman quoted by the Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) agency said militia fighters had beaten back a fierce attack overnight.
"American warplanes bombarded our positions continuously but the opposition failed to gain any ground," the spokesman told AIP. "We have managed to defeat the opposition. Many people are killed and the rest are under siege."
The AIP also reported that the Taliban had turned back an attack by another local force around Marba, 40 kilometers (25 miles) east of Lashkar Gah, the capital of the southwestern province of Helmand.
However, a group of Taliban soldiers agreed to surrender in the village of Maidan Shar, 20 kilometers (12 miles) southwest of Kabul and the scene of fighting the last two days, according to a Northern Alliance commander in the area.
"They promised to surrender," said the commander, Haji Sher Alam. "They promised first to surrender their heavy weapons."
In Kunduz, where thousands of pro-Taliban troops under siege by rival Northern Alliance forces for two weeks, the Islamic militia was still at a standoff with the Northern Alliance.
Sixty Taliban fighters surrendered in area Saturday, adding to the 500-600 who Northern Alliance officials said had given themselves up since Thursday in the Islamic militia's last northern stronghold.
The latest 60 turned themselves in to an ethnic Tajik faction of the Northern Alliance, which is a loose coalition of minorities often at odds with each other.
An estimated 3,000 to 9,000 pro-Taliban fighters have been holding out in Kunduz, including non-Afghans from Al Qaeda.
Tajik General Mohammad Daoud said his troops were keeping up their siege but would allow civilians to leave Kunduz and militia fighters to surrender.
He did not rule out, however, an attack by ethnic Uzbek General Abdul Rashid Dostam. The alliance's Tajik and Uzbek factions are both battling for control of Kunduz.
Dostam directs the alliance's operations northwest of Kunduz and has conducted separate negotiations with Taliban leaders.
Daoud, who is in charge of the alliance's operations on a front east of the city, said: "There are no more negotiations with the Taliban.
"But the siege of Kunduz is going to continue to allow civilians to leave the city and all militia fighters who so desire to surrender," he said. The general did not set a time limit on the siege.
The area appeared calm on Saturday and no artillery was heard around the encircled city of Khanabad, 25 kilometers (15 miles) to the east of Kunduz.
Nor was there any sign of the US bombers who have attacked Taliban positions there regularly - Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)