Taliban's Kunduz Defense Crumbles as Troops Surrender to Northern Alliance

Published November 25th, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

The bomb-battered Taliban forces defending the northern city of Kunduz began surrendering in a torrent on Saturday, but it was unclear whether a hard core of foreigners loyal to Osama bin Laden would choose to fight to the bitter end, said reports. 

By nightfall Saturday, alliance officials said that more than 1,100 Taliban and foreign fighters - mostly Arabs, Chechens and Pakistanis - had surrendered under an agreement negotiated with the Islamic militia's senior commanders, according to AP. 

Some Taliban fighters promptly joined the alliance, said the agency, which claimed the turncoats were welcomed like brothers. 

According to Reuters, Northern Alliance commanders said Afghan Taliban fighters who surrendered would be disarmed and freed, but they accused foreign fighters of executing Afghan Taliban who tried to surrender, and said they must face an Islamic court. 

Meanwhile, a foreign Taliban fighter who surrendered to Northern Alliance forces near the city of Mazar-i-Sharif killed himself and two other prisoners in a suicide attack, Britain's Independent Television News reported. 

Reuters cited the station as reporting that "one of those foreign fighters pulled a pin in a grenade. He blew himself up, he killed the two former fighters beside him and he also seriously injured one of the Northern Alliance commanders.'' 

Many of the thousands of foreigners fighting for the Taliban are wary of surrendering in the wake of reports of revenge killings and massacres carried out by opposition forces in cities like Mazar-i-Sharif. 

There have even been reports of mass suicides among the defenders of Kunduz. 

Foreign fighters have been more keen to surrender to the alliance's Uzbek fighters than to fall into the hands of opposition Shiite Muslims, who AP said were seeking revenge for massacres committed by the Taliban and its allies against members of their religious minority.  

 

COUNTRY STILL TORN BY WAR 

 

Although Kunduz grabbed the world's attention on Saturday, fighing continued throughout much of Afghanistan. 

At least eight US bombs exploded on Pakistani territory during a raid on Taliban positions along the mountainous frontier with Afghanistan, witnesses and local officials told AP, and at least 13 Afghans were killed and two others injured on their side of the border. 

The US has ridiculed Taliban claims of serious civilian casualties from heavy bombing, despite confirmations of off-target bombs by both the UN and the Qatar-based Al Jazeera satellite channel.  

South of the besieged city of Kunduz, tribal leader Hamid Karzai - a supporter of the former Afghan king Zahir Shah - said Pashtun forces opposed to the Taliban had captured a village on the road between the Taleban stronghold of Kandahar and the Pakistani border, according to the BBC.  

But a BBC correspondent reporting from the region said the Taliban appeared to have recaptured the village.  

No matter what happens in Kunduz, the Taliban are insisting there will be no surrender in the southern city of Kandahar, their spiritual base and stronghold of their Pashtun ethnic group supporters, added the news service. 

The war has brought about divisions even among former allies in the Taliban militia, which is the object of US wrath for sheltering bin Laden, the accused mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks in the US. 

A former Taliban deputy interior minister who defected - the most senior Taliban defector thus far - on Saturday held a news conference to say he blamed bin Laden and his foreign fighters as well as hard-line Taliban for bringing on the US-led war, said AP.  

``I have being saying for a long time that the foreigners have to leave our country, that they have plans of their own and are destroying our country,'' Mullah Mohammed Khaqzar said in Kabul, cited by the agency.  

Khaqzar said he warned Taliban supreme leader Mohammed Omar that he must ``tell the terrorists to leave'' or they ``would destroy our country.'' But Omar fell under the influence of bin Laden, AP quoted him as saying. 

With regard to the hunt for the fugitive Saudi dissident, on Saturday US jets bombed an area near the eastern city of Jalalabad, where bin Laden maintained camps, said the agency. 

Anti-Taliban officials in the area said bin Laden was near Jalalabad when the bombing campaign began and might be hiding near his Tora Bora camp in the mountains, it added.  

 

DIPLOMACY STALLED AMID CONTINUED WARFARE 

 

The European Union joined Pakistan Saturday in calling for the political process in Afghanistan to be speeded up, said the BBC. 

The new urging came as UN-sponsored talks on Afghanistan's future, due to be held in the German city of Bonn, were postponed until Tuesday, said the news service. 

Afghan factions meeting in Germany on Tuesday will try to set up a 15-member council as the basis for a new interim government, AP quoted German special envoy Hans-Joachim Daerr as saying. 

Meanwhile, the BBC quoted former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani as saying he had no "personal ambitions" in a future administration - Albawaba.com

© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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