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Government Seeks Military Help From Uzbek Warlord

September 17, 1996

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) _ The government has appealed to a powerful ex-communist general to lend some of his troops to fight against rebels who now control two-thirds of the country, officials said Tuesday.

There were some reports that Rashid Dostum, who controls much of northern Afghanistan, was preparing to send 2,000 troops to the beleaguered capital to repel the Taliban guerrillas.

``We have sent our representative to Dostum,″ said Amrullah, a government spokesman in Kabul. ``We will try to reach an agreement to fight together against the Taliban.″

In their campaign to impose strict Islamic rule, Taliban rebels have swept through eastern and northeastern Afghanistan in recent weeks with hardly a shot being fired. Government supporters either fled or peacefully handed over their territory.

Their greatest conquest came last week when Taliban fighters captured Jalalabad, 75 miles east of the capital.

Since then the rebels have tightened their grip and pushed toward nearby Sarobi, site of a major power plant and the last major government outpost on the road to Kabul. The government has strengthened its defenses around Sarobi, 35 miles east of the capital.

The Afghan government already has imposed Islamic law on Afghanistan, insisting women cover their heads and forbidding coeducation.

But the Taliban, mostly religious students-turned-guerrillas, want to impose even stricter Islamic rule that would forbid women to leave home unless accompanied by a man and mandate amputating the hands and feet of thieves.

Last weekend, government jets bombed Jalalabad, killing eight people, wounding dozens and terrorizing the city’s 400,000 residents.

Jets bombed the city again Tuesday night but there were no reports of casualties.

``The government is worse than the Russians,″ Taliban commander Mullah Burjan said in a telephone interview from Jalalabad. ``But we will continue our mission. We will not give up.″

Meanwhile, thousands of terrified residents have fled the country and are trying to enter Pakistan.

In the Pakistan border town of Peshawar, the commissioner of refugees, Rustam Shah, said a new refugee camp would be opened to accommodate the latest exodus from Afghanistan.

Already overburdened by the 1.5 million Afghans living here since the 1980s after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, Pakistan tried to seal its borders to prevent another influx.

However a tense standoff last weekend between the Taliban, who wanted the border gates opened, and Pakistan border guards prompted Islamabad to allow the refugees to enter the country.

Shah said about 1,000 families crossed into Pakistan on Tuesday carrying bundles of clothes and little else.

Update hourly