Opposition claims another town as heavy fighting rages north of Kabul
ISLAMABAD, Feb 22 (AFP) - Afghan opposition troops said they captured a strategic town in a province northeast of Kabul Sunday after fierce fighting with the Taliban militia, the Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported. The private news service quoted Abdullah, a spokesman for opposition commander Ahmad Shah Masood, as saying they captured the town of Alishang in Laghman province on Sunday morning. Abdullah, who like many Afghans goes by one name, said the fall of Alishang threatened the provincial capital Mehtarlam. He said the opposition forces seized eight arms and ammunition depots and a large quantity of heavy weapons from the Taliban soldiers. There was no independent confirmation of the report. AIP said the fighting, which erupted two days ago, intensified Sunday and Taliban aicraft bombed the rival forces to try to prevent their advance. It said 32 Taliban and opposition soldiers had been killed so far and more than 50 injured. The news service said the Taliban casualties were brought to the eastern city of Jalalabad while fresh Taliban fighters were moved Sunday to reinforce the fundamentalist militia in Laghman. Masood's forces launched the attack in Laghman province late Friday. On Saturday AIP, quoting opposition sources, said the district of Daulatshah fell to the attackers. Opposition sources claim the local population is backing their forces. They said 150 Taliban soldiers were captured in the first assault late Friday. AIP said Taliban sources in Jalalabad confirmed that a local commander allied to the Islamic militia switched sides after being bribed by the opposition, leading to clashes in the area. The heavy fighting in Laghman was the first in several months in the region, considered the Taliban's stronghold. The Islamic militia controls two-thirds of Afghanistan, including the capital Kabul. An opposition alliance headed by ousted president Burhanuddin Rabbani holds the north of the country.