Taliban and Masood locked in bitter fight
Wed 14 Oct 98 - 08:12 GMT
KABUL, Oct 14 (AFP) - Taliban troops and forces loyal to commander Ahmad Shah Masood were locked in bitter fighting Wednesday but neither side had made any significant advances since the militia launched its offensive five days ago, independent sources said.
They said the fighting was still concentrated on three fronts and was expected to continue for the next two or three days.
"After that there might be a break where both sides will assess their situation ... but it's difficult to make any predictions in Afghanistan," one source told AFP.
He said the Shomali Plains and the region around Hussein Kot, 70 kilometres (45 miles) north of Kabul, remained quiet.
The Taliban have been widely expected to open a fourth front at Hussein Kot where authorities have told the local people to bow to Taliban demands or watch their sons die and see their villages destroyed.
The Shomali Plains begin about 25 kilometres (15 miles) north of Kabul, cover Hussein Kot and stretch another 75 kilometres to the mouth of the Panjsher Valley, home to Masood.
Current fighting has been restricted to three fronts; outside of Tagab, north of the Salang tunnel -- which links Kabul with northern Afghanistan -- and in adjacent Ghorband Valley.
"There doesn't seem to have been any major advances by either side," an independent source said.
Separate reports have claimed the Taliban made some advances outside Tagab, 70 kilometres (45 miles) northeast of here.
Masood's allies say the ethnic Tajik commander had repelled the Taliban offensive, killed hundreds of militia troops and imprisoned scores more.
In recent days both the Taliban and Masood have declined to comment on the fighting and the independent sources said at this point it was impossible to determine the extent of casualties.
The fighting continued as talks between UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and Taliban Supreme Leader Mulla Mohammad Omar got underway in the southern capital of Kandahar aimed at defusing tension between Iran and the Taliban.
In Kabul, street-life returned to normal after the capital was struck by three rocket attacks and a truck ladened with explosives detonated outside the former Cuban embassy on Tuesday.
At least two people were killed and five others wounded by the rockets.
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