Taliban Rebels Enter Kabul, 100 Dead In Fierce Fighting
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) _ Rebels said they captured a military college on the eastern edge of the capital today as they closed in on the last major government stronghold in Afghanistan.
Mullah Mohammed Afghani, a spokesman for the Taliban rebels, said 100 government soldiers were killed in the battle for the military college six miles from the presidential palace. There was no independent confirmation of his report.
The rebels, who want to establish a strict Islamic government, started advancing on the Afghan capital on Wednesday. Government jets responded with bombing runs as President Burhanuddin Rabbani’s troops desperately tried to hold onto what little of the country they still controlled.
Weary retreating soldiers said at least 100 fighters from both sides were killed Wednesday.
The Taliban rebels captured the eastern town of Sarobi, then the Kabul suburb of Pul-e-Charkhi, before pressing into the capital. They now control two-thirds of Afghanistan.
The rebels then wrested control of the Custom House, a four-story rocket-demolished building, six miles from the presidential palace in the heart of Kabul, said a government commander known only as Gen. Muslim.
``There is a lot of heavy fighting along the front lines,″ said Muslim. ``But we have pushed them out before, and we can do it again.″
Inside the city of 750,000, the streets were deserted as residents hid. It wasn’t immediately known whether Rabbani was still in the capital.
Government jets screamed in low over Pul-e-Charkhi, dropping bombs on Taliban positions before returning to Baghram military airfield, 20 miles north of Kabul.
There were no immediate reports of casualties from the bombing raids. Witnesses reported at least 10 sorties.
In southern Kandahar, Mullah Omar, the Taliban commander-in-chief, announced a general amnesty for anyone who surrendered, including Rabbani.
Rabbani’s forces dominate Kabul and a few provinces to the north.
The rebels have been advancing steadily since their stunning victory two weeks ago in the eastern city of Jalalabad.
The Taliban soldiers, who have demanded Rabbani’s resignation, entered Kabul early last year before being pushed out by government troops a week later. Since then, they have been camped on the outskirts of the capital.
The Taliban are religious students who broke from other Afghan factions they claimed were riddled with corruption. The rebel groups had united in 1992 to oust the Moscow-backed communist government.
The U.N. Security Council on Wednesday called for an immediate cease-fire in Afghanistan.
``The members of the Security Council are ... particularly worried about the serious humanitarian consequences a battle for Kabul might have for the civilian population of the city,″ council president Alfredo Lopes Cabral said in a statement on behalf of the 15-member council.