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Rebels Claim To Kill Hundreds Of Soviets At Garrison

August 17, 1988

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) _ Afghan guerrillas claimed today that they killed 500 Soviets soldiers in an attack on a garrison and ammunition dump near the Red Army’s evacuation route in northern Afghanistan.

Masood Khalili, spokesman for the Jamiat-i-Islami Moslem Revolutionaries, said 200 other Soviets troops were wounded when guerrillas fired eight rockets into the Khalagay base in Baghlan province at midday on Friday.

Western diplomatic sources in Islamabad said they had conflicting reports of attacks on the garrison, by different groups on different days.

Rival guerrilla groups had reported last weekend that they started a fire at a fuel storage facility at the base.

″I think the figure sounds high,″ said one Western diplomat on condition of anonymity. He said that if accurate, it would be the Red Army’s worst single loss since it intervened in the Afghan civil war in December 1979 to back a pro-Soviet regime in Kabul.

Khalili said the rockets touched off a fire that burned for two days and destroyed 250 fighting vehicles. He said news of the attack came from forces under Jamiat’s famed commander Ahmad Shah Masood, who controls much of northern Afghanistan.

Masood is widely reported to have agreed not to attack Soviet troops, who have just passed the numerical halfway point in their scheduled nine-month withdrawal from Afghanistan.

″These (troops) were not withdrawing. They were on the base,″ Khalili said.

Khlagay, about 90 miles south of the Soviet border, lies near a fork in the main northbound land route for withdrawing Soviet forces.

The shorter, north fork reportedly is cut in two places by insurgents. Red Army forces have been using the northwest fork, which follows major oil and natural gas pipelines running from Kabul to the Soviet Union.

In New York, meanwhile, a U.N. official said Soviet troops have left 10 of their 18 main garrisons in Afghanistan and are withdrawing from the country according to the schedule worked out under a U.N. accord.

The U.N.-mediated Geneva Accords specify that one-half of the Soviet contingent of more than 100,000 troops be out by Aug. 15. The rest are to be gone by Feb. 15.

Francois Giuliani, spokesman for Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar, did not specify the number of troops that have been withdrawn.

In a press briefing Tuesday, he said that on May 15, Soviet troops were present in 18 main garrisons in 17 of 31 Afghan provinces.

As of Aug. 7, the Soviets had evacuated 10 garrisons and handed over to Afghan government forces, said Giuliani, adding that they were located at at Baraki, Daulatabad, Faizabad, Gardez, Gazni, Jalalabad, Kandahar, Kunduz, Lashkargah and Ruha.

After Monday, eight main garrisons remained under control of Soviet troops, he said. They are in the provinces of Baghlan, Herat, Kabul, Parwan and Samangan. In the Balx Province, there will be some Soviet troops around Hayratan that will be used as a border crossing point.

The United Nations has been charged with monitoring and verifying the Soviet troop withdrawal.

The Moslem guerrillas, who receive aid from the United States, rejected the U.N.-mediated accords and vow to continue fighting until the Soviet-installed Afghan government is toppled.

Update hourly