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Matthew Chance: Opposition captures Taliban POWs

Matthew Chance in northern Afghanistan
Matthew Chance in northern Afghanistan  

(CNN) -- As fighting in northern Afghanistan continues between the Taliban and the opposition Northern Alliance, CNN has learned that the opposition is interrogating prisoners of war in an attempt to gather military intelligence.

CNN's Matthew Chance is in northern Afghanistan, where he gave the following report.

MATTHEW CHANCE: We're receiving fresh reports from recent days saying that there has been fighting under way in areas not necessarily around here, but in places several hundred kilometers from where we're standing right now.

The latest reports that we've received are from General Fahim, who is, of course, the military commander of the Northern Alliance forces. He said that his forces launched an offensive in a province called Gawr, which as I say, is several hundred kilometers from where we are right now. He said (in a statement to CNN) that offensive was successful, and that they have captured 15 square kilometers of territory -- very mountainous, rugged territory. Within that: Eight villages and some 75 Taliban fighters.

There are other reports, too, of other sort of battles and confrontations under way between the forces of the Northern Alliance and the Taliban. It's very difficult for us in this situation to get to that front line and to independently verify exactly what's going on right now.

But the latest reports we've had, for instance, are from senior officials, like the foreign minister of the Northern Alliance, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah. A few hours ago, he gave us the latest reports he's been receiving from the front line.

ABDULLAH ABDULLAH, Northern Alliance Foreign Minister: Yesterday, the Taliban launched an offensive in the areas of Badghis without any success, the areas around Qal'eh-ye Naw, Gardez, which were liberated by our forces a few days ago. Taliban tried to recapture those areas without much success. And it has been since three days that Taliban have not used their jets, air bombardment.

CHANCE: Let's turn now very briefly now to the diplomatic situation -- the efforts under way. Dr. Abdullah there telling me earlier today that there are still, what he called, daily contacts with officials of the United States to discuss what he said were the entire range of options, including military options. He didn't hint -- he didn't give any details about exactly what that might involve, but he did hint to us, once again, that he, along with other senior officials of the Northern Alliance, are expecting in the days ahead some kind of military action, perhaps in conjunction with the Northern Alliance from the United States against Afghanistan. When or even if, though, that's going to take place at this point is still anybody's guess.

CNN: The Northern Alliance is claiming to take several prisoners of war... give us a hint in terms of what they're learning from these people who are fighting for the Taliban.

A Taliban P.O.W. in northern Afghanistan
A Taliban P.O.W. in northern Afghanistan  

CHANCE: That's right. There are these reports coming out from these areas where there are confrontations taking place. The Northern Alliance are taking prisoners. In fact, over the years they have been fighting the Taliban, they have been taking lots of prisoners of war indeed on both sides.

What officials of the Northern Alliance tell us is that each and every one of those people they talk to -- or they capture, they interrogate. They try, in their words, extract as much information as they can about military bases of the Taliban, indeed, military bases of Osama bin Laden as well. And they say that intelligence information could be invaluable to the United States if they do go ahead with that possible U.S.-led attack on Afghanistan. And they say that all the United States has to do is simply ask for it.


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