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Afghanistan: U.N. Evacuates Kabul As Fighting Draws Near City

Kabul, 10 October 1996 (RFE/RL) -- The United Nations ordered most of its foreign staff to evacuate Kabul today as fighting between the Taliban militia and soldiers loyal to the deposed government appeared to draw closer to the Afghan capital.

Reuters quotes U.N. sources as saying that former government soldiers led by commander Ahmad Shah Masood are continuing their counterattack against the Taliban. Masood's forces have moved out of the Panshjir Valley and are heading south toward Kabul.

U.N sources said Masood's men clashed with the Taliban at Jabal os-Siraj today and Charikar, and were moving toward the air base at Bagram, about 50 kilometers north of Kabul. AFP quoted residents and Taliban officers as saying clashes around the Bagram air base were already underway.

The Taliban leadership today accused northern Afghan warlord General Abdul Rashid Dostum of collaborating with former government forces. Dostum, who controls at least six northern provinces, held meetings this week with ousted President Burhanuddin Rabbani. But it is not clear if his forces have joined the counter-offensive. Yesterday, Rabbani appealed to the Taliban to stop the war and begin negotiations.

Unconfirmed reports by witnesses and aid officials in Northern Afghanistan say the Taliban lost positions and suffered major casualties in overnight clashes around the strategic Salang Pass, which links southern and northern Afghanistan.