Monday, November 26, 2001, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Alliance on verge of capturing Kunduz
Final push on Monday: Dostum ally

KJM Varma

Islamabad, November 25
The last citadel of the Taliban in northern Afghanistan, Kunduz, was on the verge of falling to the Northern Alliance after a 12-day siege as the latter’s first troops entered the key city amidst “continuous” surrender by the beleaguered militia and foreign fighters.

Commander Ustad Attah, a Dostum ally, said the final push on Kunduz would be on Monday.

"It is too late now for such an advance," he said. 

A threat of bloodbath in Kunduz feared by the US-led military coalition appeared to have been averted with no fighting being reported as the siege of the city near the Tajikistan border entered its final phase.

Alliance troops under the command of ethnic Uzbek warlord Gen Abdul Rashid Dostum entered the besieged city from the west, encountering little or no resistance from the Taliban fighters holed up there.

By capturing Kunduz, the Northern Alliance would gain control of entire northern Afghanistan further isolating the lone Taliban units in the southern city of Kandahar.

Northern Alliance troops have surrounded Kunduz, according to Gen Daoud Khan, one of its top commanders. The Alliance also said a top Taliban commander Noorallah Noori had surrendered, and that it hoped the city’s handover would be completed by nightfall.

The gains of the Alliance come amid significant remarks by the Alliance President Burhanuddin Rabbani that Taliban authorities and officials can participate in the interim government as individuals, not as the Taliban party if they are selected through Loya Jirga.

Rabbani also guaranteed the security and safety of foreign fighters such as Pakistanis, Arabs and Chechens, who have been fighting alongside the Afghan Taliban troops. Alliance commanders around Kunduz have said the 600 foreigners who surrendered yesterday would be jailed and tried on unspecified charges.

Rabbani said he had ordered his forces not to kill any foreign fighters, but to hold them for transfer to the UN.

Afghan Taliban fighters who surrendered would be allowed to return to their homes and foreigners would be treated as prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention, Rabbani told a news conference in Kabul.

A top Northern Alliance commander east of Kunduz Engineer Omar told CNN that the Alliance had reached an agreement with the Afghan Taliban fighters that they would surrender and bring all hard-core “foreign” fighters with them.

Omar said: “We will start to clear and capture all Taliban frontlines and the Taliban will retreat.”

The first thrust into Kunduz came from the western front as a long column of troops and tanks waited to move in — first allowing a long column of surrendering Taliban to pass by.

An Alliance commander identified as Mir Alam, a top lieutenant of Gen Atta Mohammed, entered the city at mid-day, according to spokesman Ashraf Nadeem.

The defenders of Kunduz were turning themselves in without a fight, Alliance spokesman Zaher Wasik said.

“A lot of Taliban are surrendering. Continuously, they are coming to us. There is no fighting,” Wasik said.

Meanwhile, Northern Alliance commander Mohammed Daoud said the Northern Alliance had captured the city of Kunduz.

Commander Daoud said the capture had come at 1200 GMT (5.30 p.m.). "All of Kunduz is in our control," he said by satellite telephone.

Taliban forces were in retreat toward Chardara, west of Kunduz, he said, and Northern Alliance troops were pursuing them. PTI, APBack

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