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Afghanistan: U.S. Forces Take Over Kandahar Airport

Kabul, 26 November 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Reports say that hundreds of U.S. marines today took over Kandahar airport and more U.S. troops are to follow in the next few days. Kandahar is the last major Taliban stronghold in Afghanistan. The fall of the Kandahar airport was followed by an outbreak of fighting in the Afghan border town of Spin Boldak, engaging Taliban troops and fighters loyal to tribal leader Haji Gul Agha.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people were reported to have been either killed or injured when U.S. planes bombed a fort in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, following an uprising of pro-Taliban prisoners of war. The situation there is not yet clear, however, with reports of continuing exchanges of fire.

Northern Alliance officials earlier today claimed to have captured the city of Kondoz, but there were also reports of pockets of pro-Taliban resisters still operating in the center of the city.

Also, the majority of some 50 delegates are expected to arrive today in the former German capital Bonn for the start of tomorrow's UN-sponsored conference on a post-Taliban government for Afghanistan. The delegates represent various Afghan ethnic, religious, and political groups.

Opposition Northern Alliance Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah said yesterday the Alliance is prepared to share power in a broad-based administration. Northern Alliance President Burhanuddin Rabbani said members of the ousted Taliban militia could participate "as individuals" in a post-Taliban transitional government -- but not as a party.

Yesterday, a UN spokesman called for Afghan leaders to move quickly on forming the government. The UN special envoy for Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, unveiled a five-point plan earlier this month which calls for a national council to be formed to select the transitional government.

Brahimi's spokesman, Ahmad Fawzi, said yesterday that rapid developments in Afghanistan have made it necessary for a broad-based transitional government to be created as soon as possible.