Opposition troops advance toward Kandahar
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Afghan opposition forces have moved into Kandahar Province, home to the city that forms the Taliban's political and spiritual base, a Taliban spokesman said Saturday.
The comments from Syed Tayyab Agha, personal secretary to Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, came a day after a Northern Alliance commander in Herat said his troops were launching a push toward Kandahar. But Agha denied reports that the opposition forces have taken control of Takhtaful, a small town on the highway that connects the city of Kandahar with Pakistan.
Takhtaful -- with a little more than a few dozen houses and shops -- is about one hour's drive southeast of the city.
Kandahar is one of the remaining provinces in Afghanistan under Taliban control. The Taliban have said they will not withdraw from Kandahar, and Northern Alliance forces said they expect a major battle for Kandahar city.
Although U.S. B-52 heavy bombers have been spotted flying overhead, there has been no bombing in the city of Kandahar for the last few days, Agha said. A CNN source in the city said all remains quiet, and the market is functioning as normal with plenty of people shopping.
Friday, Ismaeil Khan, chief of the Northern Alliance's western forces, said he was prepared to push southward from Herat into the last areas under Taliban control. Khan told CNN his troops had already started their battle for Marjeh and Nadali, two towns near the airport in Helmand province.
Helmand is just north of Kandahar. Northern Alliance leaders have sent 3,000 fighters into the area, said Khan's son Mirweiss Khan, Herat's security chief.
Taliban officials said this week they still have control of Helmand, Kandahar, Oruzgan, Zabol, and part of Ghazni -- all provinces in southern Afghanistan. But local tribal leaders said Taliban control was limited and top Taliban commanders had been discussing a possible surrender in at least three of the provinces.
CNN could not confirm either report.
-- CNN Correspondents Nic Robertson and Kasra Naji contributed to this report.
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