Taliban, government forces prepare for face-off
October 16, 1996
Web posted at: 10:15 a.m. EDT (1415 GMT)
JABUL SARAJ, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Taliban and government
forces engaged in sporadic fighting north of Kabul Wednesday,
while both sides appeared to be preparing for a major battle
for the Afghan capital.
The British Broadcasting Corp. said Tuesday that former
government Defense Minister Ahmad Shah Masood had demanded
that the fundamentalist Islamic Taliban withdraw from Kabul
or face destruction. Taliban officials scoffed at the
threat, saying they were more than capable of defending the
"This type of ultimatum dose not have any significance,"
acting information minister Amir Khan Mutaqi told Reuters.
"If it had then we would not have set up our movement."
The Taliban swept across Afghanistan last month, taking
control of two thirds of the country and pushing the ousted
government of President Burhanuddin Rabbani out of Kabul.
Masood rallied his forces in the Panjsher Valley, about 80
kilometers (50 miles) north of Kabul.
Earlier in the week, Masood signed an agreement with Uzbek
Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum to join forces against the
Taliban. Dostum, who controls several provinces in northern
Afghanistan, sent troops into Jabul Saraj, on the main
highway between Kabul and the northern provinces.
Warplanes, presumably Taliban, fired on Jabul Saraj
Tuesday and Wednesday, drawing anti-aircraft fire from the
ground. Heavy artillery fire was heard Wednesday from the
direction of the Baghram airfield, a military air base
controlled by the Taliban.
Civilians were on the move along the road north from
Kabul, looking for safety. But Kabul was quiet, and Taliban
officials said there was no need for alarm.
"These militias who have been expelled from Kabul are the
enemies of Afghans," said the Taliban's Mutaqi. "It's only a
useless propaganda that they have launched, which won't
affect the morale of the Taliban."
Reuters contributed to this report.
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