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Afghan Opposition Captures District

January 2, 2001

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) _ Afghanistan’s northern-based opposition struck its second blow in the past week against the ruling Taliban militia, capturing a key district in central Ghor province, an opposition spokesman said Tuesday.

Opposition troops captured Ghalmin, 230 miles west of the Afghan capital Kabul, on Monday after heavy fighting.

The Taliban tried several times to recapture the area but failed, opposition spokesman Usttad Atta Mohammed told The Associated Press by satellite telephone from northern Samangan province.

No immediate comment was available from the Taliban, who lost Yakaolang district in neighboring Bamiyan province on Saturday.

The warring factions traded heavy artillery fire in the battle for Ghalmin, about 20 miles north of Ghor’s provincial capital, Chaghcharan, Mohammed said.

Retreating Taliban left five dead soldiers behind. Another 13 Taliban were reportedly wounded.

On Tuesday, Taliban fighter planes bombed the war-battered region several times, said Mohammed.

Afghanistan’s ethnic Tajik people are the majority in Ghor province, which was captured by the Taliban in 1995. This is the first outbreak of violence in this region.

Most of the fighting in recent months has been confined to northern provinces that border Central Asia. The Taliban scored major victories to squeeze the opposition into small pockets, mainly in the country’s northeast.

The opposition is led by ousted president Burhanuddin Rabbani and former defense minister Ahmed Shah Massood, both of whom are ethnic Tajiks.

The Taliban, which now rules almost 95 percent of Afghanistan, including Kabul, are predominantly Sunni Muslims and Pashtun _ the country’s majority ethnic group.

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