Kabul, 3 June 1997 (RFE/RL) - Afghanistan's Taliban militia today claimed the capture of one northern town and parts of another on the first day of a new offensive.
Information Minister Amir Khan Mutaqi said the militia had taken Golbahar and parts of Jabal-us-Seraj from the forces of the former government's defense minister, Ahmad Shah Masood. The report could not be confirmed independently.
The Taliban lost Jabal-us-Seraj, 70 kilometers north of the capital Kabul, last Friday. Its fall cut the vital Salang highway, stranding some 2,000 Taliban fighters further north in the city of Pul-i-Khumri. Reuter reports Pul-i-Khumri is calm today, one day after the Taliban retreated from areas nearby.
Meanwhile, groups opposing the Taliban announced a broad alliance today which includes Masood, the Hezb-i-Wahdat Shi'ite Muslim militia, and the ethnic Uzbek forces of General Abdul Malik. Malik defected to the Taliban last month, allowing it to make wide gains. He later turned back to the opposition and the Taliban lost ground.