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Konduz on verge of falling

Prayer
Afghans of ethnic Tajik origin pray over the body of a Taliban fighter killed defending a Taliban position  


KONDUZ, Afghanistan (CNN) -- The first Northern Alliance troops entered Konduz Sunday, while the city's Taliban and non-Afghan defenders were reported surrendering "continuously."

Engineer Omar, a top Northern Alliance commander, said the alliance had reached agreement with the Afghan Taliban fighters that they will surrender and bring all hard-core non-Afghan Taliban fighters with them.

Juma Numangani, an al Qaeda member and deputy of Osama bin Laden, was killed from injuries suffered in a bomb blast near Mazar-e Sharif, he said. His death could not be independently confirmed.

Numangani was a prime target of U.S. bombing near Dashtiqala two weeks ago. He established the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan which sought to replace the country's secular government with a fundamentalist Islamic regime.

As alliance forces moved in to Konduz there were no reports of fighting.

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CNN's Satinder Bindra says that the latest Taliban troops surrendering may encourage others to surrender as well

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As talks proceed on a new government, there are fears that Afghanistan could revert to factional turmoil. CNN's Jason Bellini reports.

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The alliance also said the top Taliban commander had surrendered, and that it hoped the city's handover would be complete by nightfall.

Konduz surrounded

The fall of Konduz would mark the loss of the last Taliban citadel in the north of Afghanistan, leaving the Islamic militia with a stronghold only in Kandahar in the south.

Over the past three weeks, the Taliban have lost three-quarters of their territory.

"We will start to clear and capture all Taliban front lines, and the Taliban will retreat," Omar said.

The opposition has said said the city faces a massive attack if all Taliban fighters do not surrender by the end of the day.

More than 1,300 Taliban from Konduz surrendered Saturday, many of them streaming out of the city in trucks, cars, jeeps and tanks. Their former adversaries greeted them as heroes, and the former Taliban fighters said they would switch sides to help the Northern Alliance fight.

Defecting troops said they surrendered in part because U.S. airstrikes had demoralized Taliban forces in the city.

With the surrenders, Northern Alliance commanders said Sunday they feel much stronger in number and power. Taliban tanks and rocket launchers driven out of Konduz the day before were now being used by the Northern Alliance close to the front.

Asked what will happen if the Taliban in Konduz resist, Gen. Daoud Khan, a Northern Alliance commander in Taloqan, had a one-word reply: "Fighting."

Khan repeated that local Afghan Taliban fighters would be given amnesty, but any "foreign fighters" would not. Some Taliban fighters come from Pakistan, Chechnya, Uzbekistan and elsewhere.

"According to our decision, the local Taliban -- they will go to their houses and they will start their normal life," Khan said. Others, he said, would be taken to a judge. It will then be up to the court to decide whether to extradite those foreign fighters or hold trials in Afghanistan, he said.

Reports of escape

There were reports from Northern Alliance sources that some hard-core Taliban and al Qaeda fighters were escaping.

At negotiations last week in Mazar-e Sharif, a senior Taliban commander brought with him about 350 men, who he said were his bodyguards. Sources said the men were al Qaeda fighters who slipped away as talks went on.

Elsewhere, Khalid Pashtun, a spokesman for the former governor of Kandahar, said thousands of opposition fighters had blocked the main road connecting Kandahar with Pakistan and had captured Taliban fighters.

Pashtun said he was traveling with a group of more than 2,500 fighters in Takhteh Pol, about 15 miles (25 km) southeast of the Kandahar airport. On Saturday, a Taliban spokesman denied opposition forces had taken control of the key town.

Pashtun said opposition fighters had captured 50 Taliban fighters, six Arabs, eight cars and various other pieces of military equipment. He said his forces had not received any U.S. assistance but that he hoped they would in the near future.



 
 
 
 


RELATED STORY:
• Taliban in north surrender in droves
November 24, 2001

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