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Afghanistan: Hit-and-Run Attacks Reported Behind Taliban Lines

Kabul, 11 October 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Correspondents in Afghanistan report a series of behind-the-line attacks against the Taliban Islamic militia today. But Taliban leaders deny Western reports that they have lost ground to forces under the former government's military commander, Ahmad Shah Masood.

Meanwhile, Taliban leaders in Kabul are continuing their calls for negotiations.

Reuter quotes witnesses as saying that attacks which began three days ago by Masood's forces along the strategic Salang Highway had cut off the Taliban's forward offensive in the Panjshir Valley to the north. Masoood had gathered his forces in the Panjshir after retreating from Kabul two weeks ago.

Reuters also quotes witnesses as saying that at least six artillery shells landed inside the Taliban-controlled Bagram airbase about 50 kilometers north of Kabul today. Correspondents say Masood appears to have reverted to the hit-and-run tactics that he used against the Soviet army in the 1980s when Kabul was controlled by a Moscow-backed communist government.

At least two other attacks on Taliban fighters were reported north of Kabul. Local residents told Western reporters that the attacks were by villagers who had been urged by Masood's envoys to turn against the Taliban.

There are contradictory reports about the involvement of northern Afghanistan faction leader Abdul Rashid Dostum. Some say his forces are involved in counterattacks against the Taliban. Others quote Dostum aides as denying any involvement. Dostum aides also denied reports yesterday of a formal military alliance among Dostum, Masood and another faction leader, Karim Khalilli.