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Afghanistan: Taliban Reportedly Preparing Assault North Of Kabul

Islamabad, 5 June 1997 (RFE/RL) - Reports reaching the Afghan capital Kabul today say the Taliban Islamic militia is preparing for a new infantry assault on opposition forces north of the city.

Western news media quote Taliban commanders as telling visiting journalists they were gearing up for a new push against opposition commander Ahmad Shah Masood. Masood's fighters routed two towns from the Taliban in a surprise attack a week ago, and have so far repulsed all counter-offensives.

The unconfirmed reports also quote the Taliban as saying their infantry had penetrated the Hindu Kush mountain ranges and successfully reached the Ghorband valley.

The reports come as Pakistani officials said the Taliban had agreed to a three-point peace plan put forward by another commander, General Abdul Malik. But a senior Taliban official, Wakil Ahmad, declined to confirm the Taliban had agreed to Malik's terms and said the ethnic-Uzbek leader should release Taliban prisoners held in the northern capital Mazar-I-Sharif.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in a statement today that it is preparing to register about 700 prisoners held in Mazar-I-Sharif after last week's fighting.