Report: Northern Alliance advances against Taliban
NORTHERN AFGHANISTAN (CNN) -- Northern Alliance forces on Saturday captured five villages in Samangan province and advanced 20 kilometers (12 miles) toward the northern Taliban-held city of Mazar-e-Sharif, an Alliance spokesman said.
The forces under Commander Hata Mohammad killed or wounded "dozens" of Taliban fighters and captured 100 others, said Mohammad Ashraf Nadim, the commander's spokesman.
Mohammad's fighters also seized a number of Taliban weapons and vehicles, he said in a telephone interview.
The advance could not be independently confirmed, and there was no immediate comment from the Taliban.
The Northern Alliance force claimed to be near the city of Aybek in northern Samangan, about 70 miles (112 kilometers) southeast of Mazar-e-Sharif.
The reported advance was the largest in several days, after a Northern Alliance offensive appeared to have stalled in several areas and both sides repeatedly traded a number of villages in scattered fighting.
The alliance launched an artillery barrage along the front 35 miles (56 kilometers) north of Kabul on Saturday afternoon, but no advance was reported.
The Northern Alliance is part of a loose collection of Afghan fighters known as mujahedin who are opposed to the Taliban. Many of the mujahedin are veterans of Afghanistan's 10-year war against the Soviet Union.
The alliance is primarily made up of ethnic Uzbeks and Tajiks while the Taliban is primarily Pashtun, Afghanistan's dominant ethnic group.
The alliance, which controls between 5 and 10 percent of Afghanistan, has received support from Iran and Russia in the past. Since the September 11 terrorist attacks, the United States also has pledged support to the alliance while the ruling Taliban regime has allowed suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden to remain in Afghanistan since 1996 as a "guest" of the regime.
-- From CNN Correspondent Chris Burns and Producer Marina Fazel
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