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Heavy Fighting in Afghanistan

April 19, 1999

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) _ The ruling Taliban religious militia and Shiite Muslim opponents have engaged in heavy fighting in the snowy mountain passes of central Afghanistan, opposition soldiers said today.

The Shiite party Hezb-e-Wahadat reported heavy fighting west of Bamiyan city, 60 miles west of the capital of Kabul, in an area that is under Taliban control. The Taliban, who practice a harsh brand of Islamic law, control 90 percent of Afghanistan.

Members of the Shiite group, contacted by satellite phone, had no immediate reports of casualties.

Hezb-e-Wahadat is linked to the anti-Taliban alliance, based in the small area in the north still under its control. Much of the population of the central province of Bamiyan comes from Afghanistan’s Shiite minority.

At the bus depot in Kabul, a busload of Bamiyan residents arrived Monday, many of them after fleeing the fighting on foot across the snowbound mountain passes carrying children, blankets and a few meager belongings.

``I don’t know what to do here, but I couldn’t stay there ... We don’t care whether it is Taliban or Hezb-e-Wahadat we just want them to stop fighting,″ said Mohammed Nabi, a Shiite from the Hazara ethnic group.

Hezb-e-Wahadat also claimed that in Urzgan province, which neighbors Bamiyan, opposition forces pushed the Taliban out of the Shahristan district.

A Taliban spokesman, Abdul Hai Muttmain, denied the claim.

There were also reports of heavy bombing by Taliban jets in several northern areas. Witnesses said several jet fighters took off early Monday from Kabul.

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