Friday, November 23, 2001, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Pak choppers land in Kunduz
Rescue two Brigadiers; Alliance tightens noose

New Delhi, November 22
Two Pakistan Air Force helicopters pulled out two of their top military commanders trapped in the besieged Kunduz town, the last Taliban stronghold in northern Afghanistan, according to highly placed defence sources here.

The sources quoting eyewitness accounts from Northern Alliance commanders said the two helicopters flying low, landed in the heart of Kunduz town on Sunday and flew out soon after, carrying two chopper-loads of personnel.

The two officers, both of Brigadier rank, were said to be part of 1000-strong regular Pakistani armymen trapped in Kunduz and were directing Taliban fighters in Kunduz and in Mazar-i-Sharif, the sources said.

They said these forces were part of Pakistani army units, seconded to Taliban ranks for command and control operations.

The rescue operations were mounted by Pakistan’s elite Special Services Group.

This is the second time in recent weeks that reports have surfaced of Pakistani helicopters or aircraft landing in Afghanistan on “mysterious missions”.

Earlier, American television network CNN had reported a Pakistani Air Force plane landing in Taliban’s southern Afghanistan stronghold of Kandahar.

ISLAMABAD: Hours after the expiry of their deadline for surrender of nearly thousands of Taliban fighters holed up in Kunduz, anti-Taliban forces moved close to the northern Afghan city raising fears of a bloodbath even as fighting erupted near Kabul.

In a diplomatic blow, Taliban lost its last foreign representation when Pakistan ordered the beleaguered militia to close its Embassy here. Pakistan, which two days ago derecognised the regime after its collapse, was asked by the USA yesterday to close the Taliban Embassy and expel its diplomat because their presence was no longer “useful.”

US warships have joined in the hunt for Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaida men by stopping and searching vessels leaving Pakistan to prevent their escape.

American commandoes inside Afghanistan now numbering a few hundred have set up a few check points to block the movement of supplies and trap fleeing Taliban and Al-Qaida troops while US aircraft continued to pound Kunduz and Kandahar.

Amidst conflicting reports of a deal for the surrender of Kunduz, the militia’s last bastion in the north, the Alliance moved their forces saying they were ready to launch an all-out offensive if Taliban fighters, who included nearly 3,000 Pakistanis, Arabs and Chechens, failed to give up before the end of the day.

The Northern Alliance forces yesterday had given time till this morning for Taliban fighters to surrender.

The Northern Alliance claimed that most of the militia fighters in Kunduz had agreed to a surrender during overnight negotiations between anti-Taliban forces and representatives of the militia in Mazar-i-Sharif.

“Tomorrow we will launch an attack from four sides if they do not surrender,” top Northern Alliance commander Daoud Khan was quoted as saying. PTIBack

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