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Abdullah Abdullah: Northern Alliance has Taken Taloqan

Aired November 11, 2001 - 09:26   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: Even as we speak, more developments coming from the battlefields of Northern Afghanistan, specifically the Northern Alliance now claiming that it has captured the key town of Taloqan.

And also, in this country, the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld saying that there is still some fighting resistance on the part of the Taliban around another key city, which is Mazar-e Sharif.

For the latest on the situation, we want to check in with CNN's Satinder Bindra. He is in Northern Afghanistan, in and around the areas where these confrontations are taking place.

Satinder, first let me ask you this: What do we know about Taloqan and the Northern Alliance and their claims to have taken it?

SATINDER BINDRA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Martin, when we spoke last, I told you that the Northern Alliance had launched a major offensive toward Taloqan. Now Northern Alliance forces telling us that their forces have capture Taloqan.

What we do know about Taloqan is first, it's about 15 to 20 kilometers south of here, and it was once a major stronghold of the Northern Alliance. So this victory if, indeed, this has happened, will be a significant morale booster, probably second only in line to the victory in Mazar-e Sharif.

So clearly, all through the day Northern Alliance commanders have been quite (UNINTELLIGIBLE) with joy as they've announced what they claim is victory after victory. Martin, earlier today, they also said they've taken the town of Pul-e-Khumri. Northern Alliance sources telling us that their forces were also in the central Afghan town of Bamiyan.

I must stress, Martin, that it's not possible to independently verify, confirm and corroborate each claim of victory that the Northern Alliance forces are making. But today -- certainly in the past one week, we've noticed that today's announcements are some of the most dramatic from the Northern Alliance side.

Back to you.

SAVIDGE: Back to the subject of Taloqan. As you mentioned, there is the psychological benefit for the Northern Alliance in taking that town. What is the strategic benefit, if any?

BINDRA: The strategic benefit of capturing Taloqan means now that the forces of the Northern Alliance can move slightly westward towards another large Taliban-occupied town called Kunduz. And if they can capture Kunduz, then pretty well they've sown up the north, because for the West, Mazar-e Sharif is already with the Northern Alliance forces.

So again, there is a strategic importance if, indeed, this news is true, that Taloqan has been captured -- Martin.

SAVIDGE: All right. CNN's Satinder Bindra reporting to us from northern Afghanistan.

We want to get more now on these developments as far as victories the Northern Alliance is claiming. This is a news conference by the Northern Alliance.

Abdullah Abdullah is the person speaking.

DR. ABDULLAH ABDULLAH, NORTHERN ALLIANCE FOREIGN MINISTER: They are at least to the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Bridge. It wasn't only Taloqan, it's Kamish (ph) and Chal and Benghi (ph). Those districts were also captured.

The number of the Taliban casualties has been reported over 200 -- 200 dead, and some wounded. The number of prisoners, dozens of them, but most have escaped. Taliban mostly have escaped towards Konduz. Then also, last night, we started an operation against Kaleh Kateh in Khwaja Ghar in that part of the front line. There, we faced resistance -- and fierce resistance, in fact, and we had causalities. And over 20 people of our -- 20 of our soldiers were killed during that, and some eight people were wounded.

There also, there was a halt in the operation. That continued after this afternoon when we moved from the other direction from southern part of Taloqan towards Talq (ph). When we approached Taloqan, Taliban forces retreated from the Kaleh Kateh area as well. So at this stage, Khwaja Ghar, Dasht-e-Archi, Imam Saheb, Taloqan, Nangi (ph), Chal, Ishtanesh (ph). These areas -- these are the areas which were secured from last night up to now.

Nevertheless, there wasn't the coordination which we expected from the air in that part. That was due to other things, which was happening at the same time in different areas, for example, in north of Kabul. But I would consider it a serious engagement. Perhaps, after the breaking of the front lines around Mazar-e Sharif, this was the most significant engagement which took place, which Taliban give causalities, the foreign -- friends of the Taliban give causalities in the areas of Dasht-e-Kala (ph), in front of Dasht-e-Kala in the Khwaja Ghar front, it was mainly foreigners -- mainly foreigners: Chechnyans, Uzbeks from Uzbekistan, and IMU or INT as they call it, and also Pakistanis.

There have been dozens of prisoners -- foreign prisoners. The number of -- the total number of prisoners, I cannot give you an exact number at this stage, but later on I might be -- I might know about it.

So our forces are slowly and gradually making advance towards Konduz at this stage. And also we are in contact with the local forces in Konduz as well. Taliban forces in northern Afghanistan -- those who have retreated from Mazar-e Sharif, from Samangan, from other parts of northern Afghanistan, from Taloqan and hopefully, we will manage Konduz tonight or tomorrow.

There they are fully encircled. They have no way, no escape way. And the road -- of course, it was blocked before. But when Taliban were using heavy convoys or strong convoys, when they were moving in numbers, in large numbers, they were managing -- they used to manage to open the road...

SAVIDGE: You have been listening to Abdullah Abdullah. He is the spokesperson for the Northern Alliance. That, we believe, coming from Jabal Saraj, which is in northern Afghanistan. Updating, apparently, the successes of the Northern Alliance, which have been relatively significant, according to them, over the past 24-48 hours. The most recent success now, the Northern Alliance claiming to have captured Taloqan. He also reported several hundred dead on the part of the Taliban, dozens of prisoners, but he also mentioned that in some of those engagements, most of the Taliban managed to escape.

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