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Afghanistan: Opposition Denies Fall Of Northeastern Town

Islamabad, 2 July 1997 (RFE/RL) - An Afghan opposition spokesman today denied that the Taliban Islamic militia had captured Taloqan, capital of the northeastern Takhar province.

Dr Abdullah told reporters by satellite telephone the Taliban were nowhere near Taloqan. He acknowledged Taliban supporters had entered the Bangi area of Takhar from neighboring Kunduz province yesterday, but said they were driven out today by forces of former government military commander Ahmed Shah Masood.

A Pakistan-based Afghan news agency early said the Taliban had seized Taloqan.

In Islamabad, A United Nations agency announced an amnesty by the Taliban for all nationals residing abroad who decide to return to the country. The office of the U.N. High Commissioner For Refugees (UNHCR) says the Taliban administration has invited Afghan refugees in Iran, Pakistan and other countries to return in safety and dignity.

UNHCR says the amnesty protects returnees from prosecution for draft, evasion, desertion or having joined opposition commanders. It also provides guarantees for recovery or restitution of property lawfully owned by the returnees and for the respect of their human rights.

Meanwhile, The International Committee of the Red Cross urged warring Afghan factions today to respect basic humanitarian principles and international law. Michel Ducraux, head of the ICRC delegation in Kabul, told a news conference he was deeply concerned at recent air raids on residential areas of Kabul and Taloqan and at the refusal of factions to let the ICRC visit prisoners.