Tuesday, November 20, 2001, Chandigarh, India





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Guns fall silent in Kunduz
Alliance gives Taliban time to surrender
Rosalind Russell

Kabul, November 19
Northern Alliance troops besieging the Taliban redoubt of Kunduz halted their assault today while they tried to persuade the thousands of desperate defenders to give themselves up, anti-Taliban officials said.

U.S. jets bombed Taliban positions around the city, keeping up pressure on the frontlines of the fundamentalist militia around the ancient city that guards routes into the central Asian republic of Tajikistan to the north, but the Northern Alliance said it had suspended its ground offensive.

“According to my information there is no military activity in the city of Kunduz. The city is surrounded by the forces of the Northern Alliance, and U.S. Aviation continues to regularly strike Taliban position on the outskirts of the city,” said Abdul Vadut Kudusi, Northern Alliance military attache in Dushanbe.

The opposition says Afghan Taliban troops in the besieged enclave have been offering to surrender but Pakistani, Arab and Chechen fighters linked to the Al-Qaida network of Osama bin Laden were refusing to give up.

It says Al-Qaida fighters on Sunday turned their guns on Afghan comrades who wanted to surrender, killing 53 of them.

“Every day the Northern Alliance reinforces its siege of Kunduz. The Alliance is trying to carry out talks with the Taliban in Kunduz, so that they lay down their weapons and surrender,” said Ariyonfard Shamsulkhak, press attache at the Northern Alliance embassy in Dushanbe.

“We worry that if there is a battle, civilians will suffer. We do not want to allow bloodshed, so we are talking to the Taliban,” he said. “The local civilians are hostages of the Taliban.”

He said the Taliban had 10,000 to 12,000 fighters in the enclave, including Al-Qaida forces.

“If the Taliban do not lay down their weapons, then the fighting will begin. There is no other way out. And then, unfortunately, another city will be sacked,” he said.

About 200 of the several thousand Taliban troops inside the encircled city gave themselves up late on Sunday to the Alliance after days of withering artillery fire and heavy bombing by U.S. planes, the anti-Taliban opposition said.

Many of the foreign fighters in Afghanistan have chosen to fight to the death rather than surrender, knowing they face revenge at the hands of the Afghans who hate them, and because they have no safe haven to which to flee — unlike the Taliban who can just melt into the mountains and go home.

The desperation of the beleaguered Taliban in Kunduz was reflected in an incident last week when six Arabs blew themselves up in front of the advancing Alliance forces at Dasht-i-Archi near the border with neighbouring Tajikistan.

Afghan Taliban forces have made offers by radio to surrender, but only to a UN force rather than the Northern Alliance.

Several hundred people have been killed in Kunduz — the city from which Alexander the Great launched his offensive into Central Asia in 329 BC — by U.S. bombing raids in recent days, the private Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press said yesterday.

TERMEZ, UZBEKISTAN: The first contingent of French troops to be dispatched to Afghanistan arrived overnight in neighbouring Uzbekistan, military sources said today.

The 58 soldiers from the 21st Infantry Marine Regiment flew out of Southern France on Friday to secure an airfield outside the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif, a former Taliban base now held by US-backed opposition forces.

They had been due to arrive in Mazar-i-Sharif yesterday, but “were not able to reach Uzbekistan as scheduled and waited in Turkey,” the sources said, without explaining further.

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Terrorists linked to Sept 11 attacks held in Spain

Madrid, November 19
The Spanish judiciary believes that Islamic terrorists living in Spain participated in preparing the attacks of September 11 in New York and Washington, press reports said today.

Investigating judge Baltasar Garzon yesterday ordered prison for eight of 11 suspected terrorists of the Arab origin who were detained last week. The eight were believed to belong to the Al-Qaida movement of presumed terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden.

The leader of the group, Imad Eddin Barakat, alias Abu Dahdad, had received phone calls from abroad from a presumed Bin Laden associate known as ‘Shakur’ who appeared to discuss the attacks in a coded language.

“We have entered the aviation camp and even decapitated the bird,” Shakur told Syrian-born Abu Dahdah in August.

Abu Dahdah’s telephone number was found in a flat in the German city of Hamburg where presumed suicide pilot Mohammed Atta had lived. Atta is believed to have flown one of the planes which crashed against the World Trade Center in New York. DPA

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5 scribes killed near Jalalabad

Abu Dhabi, November 19
Five foreign journalists were killed by the Taliban close to Jalalabad after the militia targeted a Kabul-bound convoy last night, RIA Novosti reported today. According to the Russian news agency, the dead included two from Reuters — reporters Harry Burton, an Australian television cameraman, and Azizullah Haidari, an Afghan-born photographer. It said Spanish journalist Julio Fuentes of El Mundo and Italian journalist Maria Grazia Cutuli of Corriere della Sera were also among those killed. UNI

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Osama aide killed

Dushanbe, November 19
Osama bin Laden aide and notorious Uzbek terrorist Juma Namangani has been killed in Afghanistan, North Alliance military leader General Abdul Rashid Dostum said.

Namangani was killed during fighting for the town of Kunduz, Dostum, an ethnic Uzbek, told the BBC Persian Service, Russian news agency RIA Noyosti reports. UNI

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