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Afghanistan: Taliban Lose Control Of Key Areas North Of Kabul

Kabul, 14 October 1996 (RFE/RL) -- The Islamic Taliban militia confirmed today that it has lost key areas north of Kabul to forces loyal to the ousted Afghan government.

Mohammed Sher Stanakzai, the Taliban's acting deputy foreign minister, said the militia relinquished control of the strategic town of Jabul Saraj and of the southern flank of the Salang Pass. He said the loss of Jabul Saraj is not a major setback and claimed that the Taliban withdrawl was only a "tactical retreat" to avoid civilian casualities.

A number of Taliban fighters were lost, he said. An estimate of numbers was unavailable.

News reports, citing eyewitnesses, said the Taliban are reinforcing positions near Kabul to oppose any attempt by the forces of former goverment military chief Ahmad Shah Masood to launch an attack on the Afghan capital.

In Peshawar, Pakistan, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says thousands of Afghans have fled to Pakistan since the Taliban seized the capital and established their version of an Islamic government. Anoush Daneshwar, deputy UNHCR head of mission in Peshawar, said the number is 9,000 to 10,000 or higher.