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17 August 2004 -- RFE/RL correspondents in Afghanistan report intensified fighting today between rival militia factions in the western province of Herat, and say the fighting includes tanks and heavy artillery.

An alliance of militia groups opposed to Herat Province Governor Mohammad Ismail Khan told RFE/RL it seized positions about 20 kilometers east of Herat city today. One commander in that alliance, General Zahir Nayebzada, told RFE/RL his fighters also were advancing toward Herat from the north.

Police in Herat have confirmed that the rival militia alliance has advanced to within sight of the city outskirts.

Some 1,500 Afghan government troops have been deployed at an airfield south of Herat since the militia alliance attacked Ismail Khan's private militia from three sides on 14 August.

Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai has supported Ismail Khan in the crisis, saying his rivals are warlords who repesent a threat to the stability of the Afghan state.

(RFE/RL's Afghan Service/AP)
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