Afghanistan's opposition alliance, boosted by the prospect of more international support, claimed the capture of six strategic Taliban-held posts near the northwestern town of Taloqan as fighting raged unabated Wednesday.
An opposition spokesman said the attacks targeted the districts of Hazar Bagh and Ziarat, around 25 kilometers from Taloqan, the capital of Takhar province near the Tajik border.
"We captured six important posts in the course of last night," Mohammad Habeel, spokesman for opposition military commander Mohammad Fahim, told AFP.
Fighting has intensified in Afghanistan in the past week, with the disparate anti-Taliban forces that make up the "Northern Alliance" launching attacks across northern Balk, Samangan, Sar-i-Pul and Takhar provinces.
The Northern Alliance has broadly agreed to assist the US war on terrorism, sensing a golden opportunity to topple the Taliban after years of civil war.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said in Washington on Tuesday that any US military retaliation for the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon was "not designed to replace one regime with another."
However, Fleischer said Washington would welcome help from the Northern Alliance which controls enclaves in northern Afghanistan along borders with central Asian states where some US military forces have been deployed.
The Taliban has confirmed the opposition offensives, but rejected the claims of significant gains as exaggerated.
The Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) said Wednesday the Taliban had recaptured Zaare district, 100 kilometers southwest of Mazar-i-Sharif in Balkh province. The district was lost to the opposition on Sunday.
The Taliban governor of western Herat province, Mullah Khairullah Kherkhwa, also said Taliban forces had recaptured Qades district in neighboring Badghis province, which had fallen to the opposition several days before.
"An opposition soldier was captured and two of their soldiers were killed during the battle," the governor was quoted as saying by AIP.
The opposition has always been backed by Russia, India and Iran, but it is expecting a significant boost as a key component of US-led efforts to topple the Taliban regime and close alleged terrorist camps in Afghanistan.
Turkey said Saturday it would open its air space to US planes and pledged to increase support to the anti-Taliban forces in the form of equipment, training and other aid.
But Pakistan, the last remaining country to recognize the Taliban after Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates cut diplomatic contacts this week, has warned that cooperation with the opposition is a recipe for disaster.
"We fear that any such decision on the part of any foreign power to give assistance to one side or another in Afghanistan is a recipe for great suffering for the people of Afghanistan," Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar said on Tuesday.
Sattar's remarks were widely seen as a warning to the United States, whose military forces have been massing in the region ahead of an expected military strike on the Taliban and terror suspect Osama bin Laden.
Bin Laden has been identified by the United States as the suspected mastermind of the kamikaze plane attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon which claimed nearly 7,000 lives -- KABUL (AFP)
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