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Afghanistan: Taliban Troops Surrendering Outside Kondoz

Kondoz, 24 November 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Hundreds of Taliban fighters are evacuating the militia's northern Afghan stronghold of Kondoz. Footage on CNN shows Afghan Taliban soldiers in a convoy of vehicles, including a tank, streaming out of Kondoz today and surrendering to Northern Alliance forces. The Taliban soldiers were seen shaking hands with Alliance troops.

The French news agency AFP quotes a Northern Alliance spokesman as saying some 1,000 Taliban soldiers in Kondoz have so far surrendered. Another 600 foreign fighters from Kondoz reportedly surrendered overnight. Interfax also reports mass surrenders by hundreds of Taliban fighters on the outskirts of Kondoz. The figures cannot be confirmed.

The Northern Alliance had earlier suspended an assault on Kondoz to give the trapped Taliban more time to give themselves up. But the Alliance had vowed to resume an all-out assault if no deal was struck by later today.

Meanwhile, fighting between Alliance forces and the Taliban is reported to be continuing today in the hills near Kabul. And U.S. war planes early today attacked Taliban strongholds outside the eastern city of Jalalabad.

In other news, Burhanuddin Rabbani, political leader in the Northern Alliance, is quoted in a British newspaper as saying he is prepared to relinquish any claims to power if upcoming talks among Afghan factions succeed in naming a different transitional leader for the country. Rabbani, the Afghan president ousted from Kabul by the Taliban in 1996, was quoted in an interview published today in "The Daily Telegraph."

Rabbani said he would accept decisions that might come out of the Afghan talks due to open Tuesday in Bonn, Germany. Rabbani said that he himself has no personal ambitions.

Rabbani, who has now returned to Kabul, also said he hoped that any further negotiations on the future of Afghanistan would be held inside the country. He spoke in favor of better relations with the government of neighboring Pakistan, which until recently was a key supporter of the Taliban militia. Rabbani said a new relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan should be based on mutual respect, non-interference, and territorial independence.