Rebels claim many Taliban defections

Monday, October 1, 2001

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan -- Afghanistan's opposition claimed Sunday that hundreds of Taliban soldiers had defected during three days of fierce fighting in the country's northern mountains that have seen the opposition score major territorial gains.

Fighting is raging on several fronts and "20 percent of the Afghan territory is now controlled by the northern alliance," an opposition spokesman, who goes by the single name Abdullah, told a news conference in the Tajik capital Dushanbe.

The opposition alliance was estimated to have controlled about 5 percent of Afghan-istan before the recent offensive and many are skeptical of their claim to now control 20 percent of the country.

The rebel alliance claimed it had captured the Taliban-controlled Qadis district in the northeast. Alliance spokesman Mohammed Habil, reached by telephone, said 30 Taliban soldiers and their commander were captured, and another 120 Taliban troops had defected to the rebels.

In Tajikistan, Abdullah said that more than 1,000 Taliban soldiers had defected to the opposition alliance over the past three days. The claims could not be independently confirmed.

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