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Afghanistan: Opposition Claims Gains in Fighting

Kabul, 21 September 2001 (RFE/RL) -- There are reports of fierce fighting between Afghanistan's ruling Taliban and the opposition Northern Alliance in the north of the country. Soleh Muhammad Registani, the Alliance's military attache in Tajikistan, said the aim of the offensive is to seize the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif. He confirmed that forces under General Rashid Dostum, a military leader of the country's Uzbek minority, have joined in.

In Washington earlier, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said in a TV interview that the U.N.-recognized Alliance can be "a lot of help" against the Taliban.

Yesterday, Alliance spokesman Yunus Kanuni told RFE/RL the U.S. has his government's support for any action against the Taliban for refusing to hand over suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden.

"The public opinion in Afghanistan supports this international decision to fight against terrorism and strike against targets in Afghanistan. We are the legal government of Afghanistan and will support [such action] until the international force ends terrorism in Afghanistan and in the world. Of course we have a lot of things to offer: we know the area; we have part of Afghanistan under control; we have fighting experience."

The Taliban said today it will not hand over bin Laden without evidence he was involved in last week's attacks on the U.S.