Taliban vows further attacks after retaking Bamiyan
The Times of India
KABUL: Afghanistan's Taliban soldiers are gearing up for more attacks against the opposition after retaking Bamiyan city in the central highlands, officials of the ruling militia said Sunday.
Taliban's Bakhtar news agency chief Abdul Manan Hemat said the religious militia fighters were ready to attack opposition Hezb-e-Wahdat supporters in the Shaheedan region on Bamiyan's outskirts.
"The fighting is going to start with the aim of taking all the lost areas," he told AFP. "A sufficient number of reinforcements have been sent to Bamiyan for the job."
He said three helicopter gunships were standing by at the Bamiyan airstrip to assist the Taliban ground operations.
Wahdat spokesman Mohammad Alizadah said Taliban soldiers, backed by jets, attacked opposition bunkers in Shaheedan in the morning.
"They launched a heavy attack, but it was repulsed. Their jets flying from Kabul carried several raids over Shaheedan, but no body was hurt," he said.
Alizadah said the opposition troops had withdrawn from Bamiyan on Saturday in an "orderly way" to avoid civilian casualties and were now entrenched off the city's western fringes.
Kabul's military-civilian airport remained busy with Taliban jet operations going ahead this morning, residents said.
In Pakistan the private Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) said the Taliban had broken through opposition lines in the Shaheedan area.
Quoting Taliban sources AIP said seven opposition troops and two Islamic militiamen were killed in battle.
The sourced said Taliban soldiers were now headed toward the nearby district of Yawkalang, which the opposition seized earlier this month before attacking Bamiyan.
AIP also reported skirmishes betwen Taliban and opposition forces around Khawajaghar and Bharak areas in northeastern Takhar province.
The Taliban militia took Bamiyan in fierce fighting early Saturday, three days after they were ejected by the opposition from the strategic town.
Hemat, who had no information about casusalties in Saturday's battles, said the retreating opposition left behind quantities of food and military supplies.
Bamiyan is crucial to the Taliban as it provides the quickest alternative route to the militia-held northern provinces while the main highway through the Salang tunnel atop the Hindu Kush range remains closed by the opposition.
The hardline Taliban controls most of the country with the main opposition military commander Ahmad Shah Masood, a former defence minister, holding northeastern Badakhshan province and the Panjshir valley.
This is the fourth time Bamiyan, the heart of Hazarajat, inhabited mostly by the ethnic Hazara minority, has changed hands in two years.
Hemat said the opposition was never in a position to hold on to Bamiyan.
"They cannot hold it because they do not have enough men and the necessary morale."
Mohammad Habeel another opposition spokesman said they hoped to keep the Taliban engaged in Bamiyan.
"We think the fighting will continue there and we will soon witness more victories for the Mujahideen," he said.
The UN has warned that continued fighting would worsen Afghanistan's humanitarian crisis triggered by drought and war.
More than 500,000 people have been displaced from their homes across the impoverished country since the middle of last year. (AFP)
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