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Afghanistan: Taliban Bring In Reinforcements As Skirmishes Continue

Kabul, 16 October 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Taliban fighters continue to battle forces backing the former Afghan government north of the capital of Kabul, with neither side apparently making much headway today.

One United Nations official told the Associated Press the road going north of Kabul has been sliced up with the two sides in control of different stretches.

Taliban's Acting Information Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi told reporters 5,000 new fighters have arrived in the capital to reinforce the Taliban army. He said the Taliban also bombed military targets near Charikar and Jebul Siraj, about 60 kilometers north of Kabul. Forces backing the former government of President Burhanuddin Rabbani have retaken control of the region in the past week.

Muttaqi today also rejected an ultimatum by the former government forces to withdraw from Kabul or face new bloodshed. Muttaqi called the threat insignificant. The Taliban captured the capital on September 27.

But hundreds of residents, fearful of another outbreak of war in Kabul, are reported to be jamming onto the few buses available and fleeing the city.

Later today, Rashid Dostum, whose forces control six provinces in northern Afghanistan, is supposed to meet with Taliban and Pakistani representatives in Mazar-i-Sharif, several hundred kilometers north of Kabul. Yesterday, Dostum recognized the ousted Rabbani government as legitimate.

It's not clear whether Dostum's forces have joined in the anti-Taliban military operation.