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Satinder Bindra: Pounding Taliban holdouts

KONDUZ, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Despite the Northern Alliance claim that Taliban troops will surrender in Konduz, Afghanistan, on Sunday, U.S. warplanes and alliance ground forces are still pounding Taliban positions around the northern city.

CNN's Satinder Bindra is near Konduz. He filed this report.

BINDRA: Within hours of an agreement by the Taliban and the Northern Alliance to stop fighting, we've seen wave upon wave of rocket and artillery attacks. The fire, say Northern Alliance commanders, is directed at a Taliban military base near Konduz.

Over a half-hour time period, I counted Northern Alliance troops firing 10 rockets. These 122 mm artillery guns you see over my shoulder fired at least 10 rounds over the same period.

Tanks, too, joined in the assault. I counted at least a dozen, racing up to the front at breakneck speed, literally barreling any other traffic out of the way. Then they too opened up on the Taliban.

Not to be outdone, hundreds of infantrymen engaged the Taliban in a long gun battle.

Bombing the Taliban once again were U.S. B-52 bombers. They fly high in the sky, but their shape is unmistakable and their accuracy now a matter of great concern for the Taliban.

Since 30,000 Northern Alliance troops first surrounded Konduz more than a week ago, this has been the busiest day of the front.

Refugees leaving Konduz realized they walked into a major gun battle. Just as concern mounted for the safety of the children, everyone's attention was diverted by movement from the Taliban side. A convoy of cars raced into the Northern Alliance front lines. No one fired a shot. Three hundred local Taliban fighters defected to the Northern Alliance.

Sworn enemies until just a few hours ago, the fighters received a hero's welcome. Many here believe the presence of these local Taliban fighters will further weaken the remaining hard-core Taliban fighters -- the Chechens, Arabs and Pakistanis -- who are trying to defend Konduz.

Despite all the recent talk of surrender, few Northern Alliance fighters believe they'll lay down their arms.

During one demonstration of the hatred Northern Alliance troops feel for the hard-core Taliban fighters, a man believed to be a hard-core Taliban spy walked across the front line from the Taliban side, and he was beaten black and blue. Then they let him go.

Letting the hard-core Taliban go will be tougher. Many Northern Alliance commanders say they must be tried as -- quote -- war criminals.

CNN: Why the different treatment for the local Afghan fighters, as opposed to the foreign fighters who have come in?

BINDRA: The Northern Alliance claims the foreign fighters are -- quote -- terrorists. They entered their country to destabilize it. They've committed what they call acts of terrorism. They blame, in particular, the Arab fighters for killing their leader, Commander Massoud. He was assassinated recently by two Arabs posing as journalists, say Northern Alliance fighters.

The local fighters are part of this country. They have to live with them, so they want to be more lenient to them. Northern Alliance commanders are saying if the hard-core Taliban do surrender, they will not be extradited to a third country. They'll be put into special camps and then they will be tried as -- quote -- war criminals.


• Taliban making last stand in Konduz
November 23, 2001

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