Markets reopen to claim of peace

Wednesday, November 28, 2001

KUNDUZ, Afghanistan -- Shopkeepers heeded instructions and reopened their stores Tuesday, trying to return stability to this northern city a day after alliance forces drove out the last Taliban fighters.

"This is peace," city officials announced repeatedly in the central market square as they encouraged merchants to do their part to return calm after the northern alliance's two-week siege of Kunduz.

Thousands of Afghan Taliban fighters who surrendered were allowed safe passage out of Kunduz, their last stronghold in northern Afghanistan. However, some Afghan fighters remained behind and fired on alliance troops who entered the city Monday.

After an hours-long battle alliance forces crushed the last resistance.

Afterwards, alliance soldiers wandered the streets looking for vengeance, shooting wounded Taliban and dragging other fighters out of houses for beatings.

As part of the weekend surrender of Kunduz, hundreds of Pakistanis, Chechens, Arabs and other non-Afghans fighting with the Taliban were brought to the Qalai Janghi fortress near Mazar-e-Sharif. Once inside the fortress Sunday, the prisoners stormed the armory and fought alliance forces. Alliance soldiers aided by U.S. and British special forces claimed to have restored control Tuesday.

Stores in Kunduz had been closed for many days out of fear of U.S. airstrikes and the Taliban's foreign fighters, who would beat anyone they saw on the streets, residents said.

On Tuesday, the market was buzzing with men but no women were in sight.

A jail in the village of Qurbragh, on the former eastern front between the towns of Taloqan and Kunduz, held many Taliban prisoners Tuesday. Visiting reporters were not allowed to speak with the prisoners.

Jailers said that other foreign soldiers taken prisoner had committed suicide in a trench during the fighting in Kunduz. The account could not be independently verified.

Files on previous prisoners in the jail attested to the Taliban's iron grip in the region.

One file noted that a prisoner had "listened to the radio three times despite warning." Another prisoner had left behind a letter saying he had been imprisoned because he "listened to music and the radio too often."

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