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Taliban suicides in besieged city

KONDUZ, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Taliban fighters in the besieged Afghan city of Konduz are killing themselves rather than give themselves up to Northern Alliance troops, CNN has learned.

Sources inside the city have told CNN that around 60 Chechen fighters drowned themselves in the Amu River, while a Northern Alliance commander said 25 trapped Taliban fighters fatally shot one another when they saw opposition troops advancing towards them.

Hardline Taliban fighters have also killed local Taliban who want to surrender, sources tell CNN.

Taliban positions near Konduz were bombed by U.S. planes for a second straight day on Sunday, while the Northern Alliance said it has surrounded the city with around 30,000 troops.

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Plumes of smoke were seen in areas about nine miles (15 km) outside Konduz, the Taliban's last stronghold in northern Afghanistan, after a U.S. B-52 bomber hit Taliban positions. U.S. F-14s were also seen flying in the area.

The Northern Alliance said it was not prepared to move forward into the city because it is low on ammunition and is waiting for the outcome of the U.S. strikes.

The opposition is also attempting to engineer Taliban defections.

The Northern Alliance said it is willing to offer the hardline Taliban troops -- which include Chechen, Pakistani and Arab fighters -- safe passage from Konduz if they will surrender their weapons, but there was no indication on Sunday that the Taliban was willing to accept the offer.

The Taliban troops in Konduz are thought to include thousands of foreign fighters loyal to Osama bin Laden and willing to fight to the death.

There are reports that the Taliban is refusing to allow civilians to leave the city and that streets are deserted but for Taliban soldiers.

Mohammed Ibrahim, who escaped from Konduz, told the UK Sunday Telegraph newspaper that the Taliban were forcing local men to fight for them. He said those who refused were being beaten or killed.

Some civilians who have managed to escape the city have arrived in Mazar-e Sharif.

-- CNN Correspondent Satinder Bindra contributed to this report


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