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Ben Wedeman: Northern Alliance continues offensive push

CNN's Ben Wedeman
CNN's Ben Wedeman  

DASHTIQALA, Afghanistan (CNN) -- The Taliban have confirmed that the opposition Northern Alliance has wrested control of the strategic city of Mazar-e Sharif in northern Afghanistan.

CNN's Ben Wedeman is covering developments from a nearby town and reports that the Northern Alliance is focusing on expanding its offensive.

WEDEMAN: Yes, it appears that the Northern Alliance continues to hold Mazar-e Sharif, but part of the attempt by the alliance to keep that strategic northern Afghan city and also to widen its control of the northern part of the country seems to be going on right in this area where we are, which is called Dashtiqala.

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Throughout the day Saturday, we've heard Northern Alliance artillery and rocket fire going over to the Taliban positions, and we've seen repeated sorties by U.S. warplanes, including B-52s, dropping ordnance on the Taliban positions just about four or five kilometers from here.

Now, according to some here, it appears that this is actually an offensive that's been launched against the Taliban positions. One Northern Alliance commander claims that as many as 70 tanks are engaged in the fighting.

We certainly have seen a good deal of fighting here in the distance, however, and in fact we've had to move down to this lower position because the Taliban forces were responding with some artillery of their own.

One of the shells hit inside the town [and] hit a hut of some civilians. One was killed, and I believe several were wounded as well.

Also killed Saturday was one Northern Alliance commander. Five of their soldiers were wounded in fighting that apparently is -- as much we can describe -- trench-to-trench fighting.

So very much the focus here is on trying to broaden the control of the Northern Alliance, of this very strategic area and possibly to try to create some sort of continuous Northern Alliance-controlled territory in the north of the country.


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