Afghanistan opposition recaptures two districts


ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, AP

Afghanistan’s anti-Taliban alliance recaptured two strategic districts in the northern Takhar province after intense fighting overnight, killing at least 40 Taliban soldiers, an opposition spokesman said Sunday.

The opposition on early Sunday captured Imam Sahib, located on Afghanistan’s northern frontier with the Central Asian state of Tajikistan, opposition spokesman Mohammed Abil told The Associated Press by telephone from the war-ravaged region.

The Taliban forces were also pushed out of Hajaghar, 40 kilometers (24 miles) north of Taloqan, the capital of Takhar, he said.

The whole region is strategically important because it serves as a key supply route for the opposition alliance from Tajikistan.

The Taliban forces retreated, leaving behind their dead and wounded on the battlefield, he said. Heavy fighting continued Sunday near Dasht-i-Archi and Hazarbagh, both located northwest of Taloqan, Abil said.

At least 50 Taliban soldiers were wounded in the fighting, while the opposition lost seven fighters, he said. The opposition had lost these districts in the region last month, when the ruling Taliban militia was scoring victories in Takhar.

No immediate comment was available from the Taliban, who rule more than 95 percent of Afghanistan, including the capital Kabul.

The opposition, led by ousted President Burhanuddin Rabbani and former Defense Minister Ahmed Shah Massood, is made up of mostly ethnic and religious minorities, including Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras and Shiite Muslims. It controls barely 5 percent territory of Afghanistan, including northeastern Badakshan province and small pockets in several other northern provinces.

The Taliban, or students of Islam, are mostly Sunni Muslims and Pashtun, Afghanistan’s majority ethnic group.

Both the factions have ignored the United Nations’ repeated pleas for peace. The United Nations wants a broad based government in Afghanistan, devastated by more than two decades of civil war.

But the Taliban rulers, recognized by only three countries, reject the proposal and are trying to win international recognition.