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Alliance enters Konduz; Taliban prisoners revolt

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

KONDUZ, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Northern Alliance leaders Sunday claimed control of half of Konduz, the Taliban's last stronghold in northern Afghanistan, amid an uprising by Taliban prisoners who surrendered a day before.

Hundreds of Taliban prisoners who surrendered Saturday staged a violent uprising Sunday outside Mazar-e Sharif, Northern Alliance officials said.

Northern Alliance Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, who helped negotiate the surrender agreement last week, brought in an additional 500 Northern Alliance troops to quell the rebellion. Witnesses said U.S. warplanes several times struck the prison compound, located about 10 miles (15 kilometers) outside Mazar-e Sharif, to help Afghan troops.

The Taliban prisoners were thought to be mostly Arab, Chechen and Pakistani volunteers fighting with Afghanistan's Islamic militia.

A German television reporter at the fortress-like prison near Mazar-e Sharif said some Taliban prisoners detonated hand grenades, killing themselves and several guards nearby. At that point, other Taliban fighters grabbed weapons from the slain guards and staged a revolt, the reporter said.

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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Lt. Col. Dan Stoneking, a Pentagon spokesman, said the trouble began Sunday afternoon among 300 non-Afghan Taliban who had smuggled weapons into the camp. A U.S. military adviser at the scene reported that hundreds of prisoners may have been killed in the uprising.

There were reports that two U.S. military advisers were in the compound at the time, but Lt. Col. Jim Yonts, a spokesman for the U.S. Central Command, said all American military personnel were safe.

"We counted our noses, and all are accounted for," Yonts said. But he said he was "unable to rule out" any casualties among CIA operatives or U.S. contractors working in the region. International relief organizations such as the Red Cross are also in the area, he also noted.

More than 1,000 Taliban fighters -- many volunteers from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Chechnya and Uzbekistan -- have given themselves up around Konduz since Friday. Saturday, another surrendering Taliban fighter at Mazar-e Sharif detonated a grenade, killing himself and two companions and seriously injuring a top Northern Alliance commander.

The Taliban prisoners were part of the garrison at Konduz, the last major pocket of Taliban resistance in northern Afghanistan. Another 250 Taliban troops surrendered Sunday, departing the city in a 30-vehicle convoy along with machine guns, assault rifles and rocket launchers.

Retreats, fighting

Gen. Atiqullah Baryalai, the Northern Alliance commander there, said Sunday his troops have entered encountered only light resistance and small-arms fire upon entering the city. In addition, Baryalai said Northern Alliance troops were in complete control of the outlying town of Kanabad.

In Konduz, most Taliban fighters were retreating to the western part of the city, he said, and fighting could still be heard as anti-Taliban troops advanced. Some who surrendered said they would switch sides to help the Northern Alliance fight for the city.

Baryalai said about 3,000 hard-core, non-Afghan Taliban fighters remain in Konduz. U.S. military officials in Washington estimated the remaining Taliban strength at 600 to 800 fighters. At Kanabad, Northern Alliance forces said they encountered some resistance from troops belonging to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda organization. U.S. officials blame al Qaeda for the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

A Northern Alliance leader at Kanabad, Engineer Omar, told CNN that Juma Numangani said a bin Laden deputy died from injuries suffered in a bomb blast near Mazar-e Sharif. 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.

Northern Alliance President Burhanuddin Rabbani said Sunday any non-Afghan Taliban fighters captured in fighting should be turned over to the United Nations and granted amnesty. The Northern Alliance had previously said the non-Afghan fighters should be arrested and tried as war criminals.

"We would like to find a solution despite the fact that they were fighting against us," Rabbani said. "We have nothing to do with them. We forgive them."

-- CNN Correspondents Alessio Vinci and Satinder Bindra contributed to this report.


• Taliban in north surrender in droves
November 24, 2001

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