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Tajikistan: Fighting Continues In The North

Dushanbe, 5 November 1998 (RFE/RL) - Reports from Tajikistan say government forces have driven rebel fighters from key buildings and have reclaimed control of a city in the north of the country in a second day of heavy fighting. The Associated Press reports the government has retaken two buildings belonging to the Interior Ministry in the city of Khodzhand, about 200 kilometers north of the capital, Dushanbe.

Official casualty figures are varied. The government press service said up to 100 government troops were killed in the battle. Government Spokesman Zafar Saidov says the death count is 39. He said about 50 rebels had been killed.

Interior Minister Khumdin Sharipov said fighting was continuing in and around the old fortress in the city center.

Interfax says rebels still control the northern town of Aini, about 140 kilometers northeast of Dushanbe.

Tajik Vice Prime Minister Abdurakhmon Azimov said in a radio broadcast that there would be no negotiations with the rebels. He said "the matter is to block and liquidate them."

Rebel leader Makhmud Khudoberdyev issued a statement today saying he would not negotiate with the government until it broadcast his demands on national television and radio. The rebels are seeking to be included in the coalition government.

AP said representatives of seven nations, along with the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), met in Dushanbe today to discuss possible solutions to the crisis.