Kabul, 12 September 1997 (RFE/RL) - Afghanistan's opposition says former ethnic Uzbek warlord General Abdul Rashid Dostum is back in the country helping in the fight against Taliban forces near the main northern opposition stronghold at Mazar-i-Sharif.
Dostum was driven from the city in May by a rival opposition commander who briefly allied with the Taliban to seize the city. The Taliban were then routed from the city in an opposition counter-offensive. Dostum has been in Turkey but left there Wednesday.
A Dostum ally, Mowlawi Abdolbaqi Torkestani, told Iran's news agency IRNA today that Dostum was back fighting with the opposition at a key road junction (Heyratan) held by the Taliban some 30 kms from Mazar-i-Sharif. Spokesman for another opposition faction (Mohammed Mohaqig - shi'ite muslim Hizb-i-Wahdat) also said Dostam is back in Afghanistan but he didn't know where. There is no independent confirmation.
The Taliban and opposition today gave conflicting accounts on the military situation near Mazar-i-Sharif. The Taliban said an overnight opposition attack on Taliban forces at the city's airport had been repulsed. The opposition says the Taliban had been forced to retreat. Reports spoke of the city coming under attack by warplanes today. The Taliban also said they captured the Qalai Jangi fort outside Mazar-i-Sharif -- Dostum's former base -- last night.
In Kabul, the capital, one civilian was killed and another injured today in a rocket attack by anti-Taliban forces on an area near the airport. The Taliban seized Kabul about a year ago and controls two-thirds of the country.