People rise against Taliban in Kandahar - Karzai
By Michael Christie
QUETTA, Pakistan, Nov 15 (Reuters) - The people of the southern Afghan city of Kandahar have risen up against the embattled fundamentalist Taliban and heavy fighting was raging in the city on Thursday, a leading opposition figure said.
Pakistani border officials said U.S. jets were bombing the city but they had heard of no fighting in the city, fuelling the confusion over who controls the stronghold of the Taliban and their last major bastion not yet captured by opponents.
Tribal leader Hamid Karzai, drumming up support in Afghanistan for the return of ex-King Zahir Shah, told Reuters the Taliban were withdrawing heavy equipment from the city, stronghold of their supreme leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar.
"The people have totally risen against them," Karzai said by satellite telephone from the central province of Uruzgan. "The Kandahar people have taken to the city streets. The Taliban are withdrawing heavy equipment out of Kandahar."
It was not possible to get independent confirmation of his information. But local non-governmental organisations say there are reports of hundreds of Afghan families fleeing towards the Pakistani border because of fighting.
"It's clear that people are fleeing here and there," said Mohammad Akbar, an official in Pakistan with British charity Islamic Relief. "There are 200 to 300 families (of refugees) from Kandahar coming to Spin Boldak (near the Afghan-Pakistani border)," he told Reuters in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta.
A spokesman for U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said the pressure group had heard similar reports of refugees on the move in the Kandahar region.
The fate of Kandahar is now in the spotlight after the opposition Northern Alliance, backed by U.S. air strikes, swept into the formerly Taliban-held cities of northern Mazar-i-Sharif, western Herat and the capital, Kabul, in the last six days. The ancient walled city lies in the heart of the Pashtun tribal belt where the Taliban had found most of its support.
A senior Pakistani border official reported a heavy U.S. aerial bombardment in Kandahar. The bombardment was at its fiercest when Taliban trucks of troops retreated back toward Kandahar, the border official said.
Opposition figures in the south say tribal chieftains, including former Kandahar mujahideen governor Gul Agha entered Afghanistan at the start of the week to try and retake the city. Karzai said he was in touch with moderate Taliban elements and reports of mass desertions were correct.
He declined to identify the Taliban but said negotiations on a deal were making progress. Karzai gave no further details. The former deputy foreign minister of a pre-Taliban government and leader of the Popalzai tribe has been in Afghanistan since shortly after the United States began its bombing campaign on October 7.
Karzai's aim is to win the backing of local tribes for the establishment of a Loya Jirga, or grand council, to be presided over by Zahir Shah, in exile in Rome since being deposed in 1973. Karzai confirmed reports from U.S. officials that Taliban forces had withdrawn from Uruzgan.
"The people moved into the town of Tarin Kowt (in the south of the province) just carrying pick forks," he said. "The Taliban, they are withdrawing from many areas."
Hamid Achakzai, a member of the powerful Pashtun Achakzai tribe, said various Afghan-linked parties met in Quetta on Wednesday and were unanimous that a Loya Jirga, or grand council, should decide on a broad-based government.
"We were all in favour of a Loya Jirga with the king as a nucleus. The stress was on a Loya Jirga," Achakzai, brother of tribal leader Mahmood Khan Achakzai, told Reuters.
Achakzai also dismissed concerns being voiced in the southwestern border region that the Pashtun tribes of the south could clash with advancing Northern Alliance units. The Northern Alliance is a coalition formed mainly of Uzbek and Tajik ethnic minorities.
Achakzai said people were losing sight of the fact that the Alliance also included sizeable Pashtun elements. "Northern Alliance is Pashtun-dominated even now," he insisted.
|Back to News Archirves of 2001|
Disclaimer: This news site is mostly a compilation of publicly accessible articles on the Web in the form of a link or saved news item. The news articles and commentaries/editorials are protected under international copyright laws. All credit goes to the original respective source(s).