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Afghanistan: Heavy Taliban Casualties Reported In Salang Pass

Qalatak, Afghanistan; 9 October 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Western news agencies report that the latest round of fighting in northern Afghanistan resulted in heavy casualties today.

Reuters quoted aid workers in the region who said scores of Taliban fighters were killed when forces of the country's former military chief, Ahmad Shah Masood, attacked Taliban fighters in the Salang Pass.

The commander of the Taliban forces in Salang, Maulavi Khairulla Hagani, acknowledged the fighting was very serious but he said the Taliban brought in heavy reinforcements and contained the Masood attack. He refused to discuss casualties. Reuters said the Taliban front line in the region moved 15 to 20 kilometers south.

In Mazar-i-Sharif, in northern Afghanistan, ousted President Burhanuddin Rabbani today appealed to the Taliban to stop the war and begin negotiations.

Rabbani met with General Abdul Rashid Dostum, whose forces control six provinces in the region, and said his aim was to form a broad-based front against the Taliban. He invited all factions to join him in an effort to reunify the country.

It is not clear whether General Dostum agreed to join forces with the former government. Former Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar said today he supports the efforts to form an anti-Taliban alliances. But his spokesman, Ghairat Baheer, said Hekmatyar was too busy to attend the talks between Dostum and Rabbani.

In Kabul, the Red Cross says one of its officials was severly beaten and detained for 13 hours by a Taliban militia street patrol. He is being treated in hospital. The Red Cross sent a letter of concern about the incident to the Taliban government.