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Rebel Fighters Try to Strangle Supply Routes to Key Cities

October 24, 1989

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) _ Afghan jets bombed central Afghan cities and guerrilla strongholds to try to halt attacks on supply lines to besieged cities, Western diplomats said Tuesday.

U.S.-backed Moslem guerrilla sources claimed that since the weekend, 1,500 soldiers and 700 armed militiamen defected to the self-proclaimed guerrilla government based in Pakistan. The report could not be independently confirmed.

One Western diplomat, speaking in Islamabad on condition he not be identified, said high-altitude cluster bombs rained down in recent days on villages and guerrilla positions along the Logar Road, which links the capital Kabul to Gardez, 100 miles southeast.

There were no immediate casualty reports.

Diplomats said guerrillas have stopped a 200-vehicle supply convoy on the Logar Road at Mohammad Aga, 18 miles southeast of Kabul. The government convoy stuck at Mohammad Aga reportedly left the capital about two weeks ago and is headed toward the embattled garrison town of Khost, near the Pakistan border.

Guerrillas launched an offensive against Khost more than two months ago but fighting is deadlocked.

A guerrilla source, known only as Amanullah, corroborated reports of heavy bombing along the Logar road but said about 60 percent of the villages were already reduced to rubble in bombing raids during the early years of the war.

Most civilians from the area moved to neighboring Pakistan, where more than 3 million refugees have fled from the decade-long battle between Soviet-backed communist troops and the Moslem insurgents.

Diplomats, quoting guerrilla sources, said guerrilla fighters hit a government convoy traveling on the strategic Salang Highway, linking Kabul to the Soviet Union.

Guerrillas claimed to have destroyed more than 20 vehicles and captured 30 others, including tanks and armored personnel carriers, in last week’s attack.

Diplomats and rebel sources said the road between Kabul and the eastern city of Jalalabad has been blocked by guerrilla fighters since Sept. 25. The 75-mile stretch of highway is critical for the government to resupply the beseiged city of Jalalabad.

A guerrilla spokesman, who uses the single name Iqbal, said 1,500 army troops deserted their positions in eastern Afghanistan’s Ghazni province on Monday.

The 700 militiamen defected on the weekend from 20 outposts in northern Samangan province, guerrilla sources said. The defection weakened a security ring around the northern town of Robatak, they said.

Update hourly