Taliban retake town from rival Afghan commander Masood: report
Sun 18 Oct 98 - 15:09 GMT
ISLAMABAD, Oct 18 (AFP) - The Taliban militia Sunday recaptured Taloqan, a strategic town in northern Afghanistan after fierce fighting with forces loyal to opposition commander Ahmad Shah Masood, a militia spokesman was quoted as saying.
"Taliban fighters entered Taloqan after a fierce day-long fighting," the hardline militia's spokesman Abdul Ahad Jehangirwal told the Afghan Islamic Press (AIP).
"The Taliban are in complete control of Taloqan and its airport," Jehangirwal said, adding further details of the offensive were awaited.
There was no immediate independent confirmation of the report.
The city has changed hands in the recent past. Masood loyalists were driven out of there during the Taliban's summer offensive in northern Afghanistan.
But on Saturday they flushed out Taliban troops from the strategic town located near the Tajikistan border.
AIP said the Taliban launched the offensive around around 11:00 a.m. (0600 GMT). Masood forces put up "tough resistance" but were compelled to flee after seven hours of heavy fighting.
Casualties were heavy, AIP said adding more than 50 soldiers were killed on both sides.
The Taliban launched the offensive with some 600 fresh fighters despatched soon after rival troops entered the town on Saturday, it said.
Taloqan, the capital of northeastern Takhar province, has been a traditional base for Masood. It is considered vital for his forces as it controls their supply artery to Masood's bastion of the Panjsher valley and the areas north of Kabul.
Earlier opposition sources said Taliban fighters launched a coordinated attack late Saturday from Ghorband and Nejrab districts against Masood's troops in northern Parwan and Kapisa provinces.
"The attack through Ghorband has been rebuffed. But heavy fighting is still going on in Nejrab," opposition spokesman Mohammad Aref said.
Masood is the last obstacle for the Taliban's ambitions to take the whole of Afghanistan, some 90 percent of which is already controlled by the religious militia.
The Taliban overran northern and central Afghanistan in the summer routing the forces of ex-communist general Abdul Rashid Dostam and Shiite Moslem leader Abdul Karim Khalil.
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