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Burns: Alliance claims strategic city

(CNN) -- A source inside Kandahar tells CNN that the Afghan city came under fire last night in the worst round yet of U.S. attacks. Meanwhile, forces of the Northern Alliance say they captured a strategic province along the ruling Taliban's supply route.

CNN Correspondent Chris Burns has been following the situation from northern Afghanistan.

BURNS: The Northern Alliance is claiming to have seized the city of Chaghcharan -- that is the provincial capital of Ghowr Province; that is in the west. That includes an airport that could be used as an air base -- very, very strategic. It also includes supply lines that go up north toward the Taliban.

The Northern Alliance is also claiming to have repelled an attack by the Taliban in the Samangan Province; that is on the way to Mazar-e Sharif, a very strategic town the Taliban hold that the Northern Alliance hopes to take hold of. And they say they are advancing in the northwestern province of Badghis -- that borders Turkmenistan.

This is impossible for us to confirm independently. We are just passing you the word from the Northern Alliance, what they are saying. The Taliban ambassador said yesterday he denied any of those advances by the Northern Alliance. But we will have to see what happens along those fronts as well as on the front between here and Kabul.

Last night we were watching nightscope vision when there were what are described as the most intense air attacks over and around Kabul, as well as intermittent shelling along that front line. What the Northern Alliance is hoping is that the air strikes focus on the troops on that front line, the Taliban troops, thousands of them who are massed along that front line. The Northern Alliance says it won't move an inch until some of those Taliban forces are softened up by those air strikes.

CNN: How many Northern Alliance fighters are we talking about here?

BURNS: All together, there are an estimated 15,000 fighters, not very heavily armed. They have Soviet-era Kalashnikov guns, as well as some ex-Soviet hardware, like tanks and armored personnel carriers. They are getting some armament from Moscow at cut-rate prices, in order to load that hardware that they have. But it is extremely limited. Commanders we talked to on the ground say not only are they are getting impatient about not seeing any air strikes hitting Taliban positions, but they would also like to see more aid from the international community in being able to wage their campaign.

CNN: What are they telling you on the record about any U.S. support at this point for the Northern Alliance?

BURNS: They are very coy about that. They're not much further than saying there's cooperation, communication at very high levels. But as far as any material aid, we have seen none from this standpoint. We have seen no presence of U.S. troops yet.


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