Fierce fighting resumed in northeastern Afghanistan Wednesday between the ruling Taliban militia and opposition forces but the frontlines remained unchanged, opposition officials said.
Forces loyal to opposition commander Ahmad Shah Masood launched an offensive before dawn, targetting the Islamic militia's bunkers around Taloqan city in Takhar province close to Tajikistan, they said.
"Heavy fighting is going on in several directions to the north and northeast of Taloqan," Masood's spokesman Ahmad Jalal said.
"It was quiet overnight, but fighting started early in the morning," he said.
The spokesman said opposition troops had seized the centre of Khwajaghar district, north of Taloqan, on Tuesday, but later retreated after a Taliban counter-attack.
Taloqan was Masood's second military base before it fell to the Taliban this summer.
Masood troops want to keep the Taliban engaged in Takhar, the opposition spokesman said.
"The plan is to damage the enemy and to take the areas lost," Jalal said.
Fighting in Takhar erupted late Monday after opposition forces launched a large-scale attack against Taliban positions in the region.
The Taliban control most of the country. Masood, who is entrenched in the northeast, is the last obstacle to the ruling militia's ambition of controlling the whole of Afghanistan.
Opposition sources conceded that Masood's troops had made no major territorial gains in the offensive so far while the Taliban media claimed the attack, allegedly mounted with Russian collaboration, was beaten back.
An opposition official Wednesday acknowledged that Khwajaghar in Takhar and Dasht-i-Archi district in the nearby province of Kunduz were not under Masood's control, contrary to earlier claims by some opposition officials.
"We control only parts of Imam Saheb in Kunduz province," the official, prefering anonymity, told AFP.
A Taliban daily Anis said the "wide-scale attack was launched in direct collaboration with Russians."
It claimed the opposition attack was arranged after Masood met Russian Defence Minister Igor Sergeyev in Tajikistan last month.
The opposition offensive mounted on Monday night targetted the Islamic militia's positions in Chal, Tangi Farkhar, Khwajaghar and Lataband of Takhar province, it said.
"They were driven back in a counter attack by the Islamic army," the newspaper said claiming the opposition troops suffered "huge losses."
Masood supporters had made some gains in Lataband and Hazarbuz, which were taken back, it said.
The latest round of fighting after a three-week lull has raised tensions along the Tajikistan border patrolled by thousands of Russian troops.
Taloqan was a key opposition base lying some 100 kilometers (60 miles) north of Kabul on the opposition supplies routes from Tajikistan. Masood has vowed to recapture it before the onset of winter only weeks away -- KABUL (AFP)
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