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Afghanistan: Taliban Under Attack Again

Salang, Afghanistan; 29 May 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Troops of the Taliban Islamic militia are under attack again today, a day after being routed from a key opposition stronghold in northern Afghanistan.

Fighters of warlord Ahmad Shah Masood's Jamiat-I-Islamic faction went on the offensive against the Taliban at the town of Jabul Siraj, some 77 kilometers north of the capital Kabul. The Taliban said it had repulsed the attacks at the town.

Masood is the last major military commander still fighting the Taliban, which last week made a breakthrough into the northern opposition stronghold of Mazar-I Sharif. The Taliban was then forced to retreat from the city after heaving fighting when new-found ethnic Uzbek forces switched sides again.

Red cross officials say they so far have collected over 100 bodies of people killed in the battles. Unconfirmed reports said the Taliban foreign minister was among those captured as the militia retreated. A separate Taliban report today said one Taliban unit is still fighting a rearguard action at Mazar-I-Sharif airport but there are no details.

The Taliban is pouring reinforcements north toward the city as hundreds of ethnic Uzbek troops head south to stop a Taliban advance. The UN is evacuating foreign aid workers and journalists by road from Mazar-I-Sharif to the Uzbek border town of Termez.