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Afghanistan: Opposition Launches Offensive

Kabul, August 21 (RFE/RL) - There are conflicting reports from Afghanistan where the northern-based anti-Taliban opposition today launched an offensive near the capital Kabul.

The Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press quotes officials with the Taliban militia as saying that the opposition offensive, centered around the town of Mir Bacha Kot some 25 kilometers north of Kabul, had been stopped. The officials also claimed that some 30 opposition fighters had been killed.

But the AFP news agency quotes an opposition commander as saying that they had gained their initial objectives in the fighting. And AFP reports that the opposition had gained ground and was within 21 kilometers of Kabul.

An opposition jet is reported to have dropped two bombs on Kabul's airport today. The Taliban immediately sealed off the area, making it impossible for correspondents to immediately assess damage or casualties firsthand.

The offensive is being led by forces under the command of the former government's military commander, Ahmed Shah Masood.

Masood's forces moved toward Kabul earlier this summer before the Taliban blocked further advances. The Taliban seized the capital last September and has imposed a strict version of Islamic law in the some two-thirds of the country under its control.