Fighting Resumes in North and West of Afghanistan

, Oct.4, 2002

KABUL, Afghanistan, 10/4/2002 (Reuter) :: Heavy fighting broke out in the north and west of Afghanistan on Thursday as forces loyal to rival commanders resumed longstanding battles for control of strategic areas, the United Nations and local witnesses said.

U.N. spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva said commanders Abdul Rashid Dostum and Ustad Atta Mohammad had sent officials to the Pir Naqshi area in the northern province of Samangan to quell the latest clashes between their supporters.

Uzbek warlord Dostum and the Tajik commander Atta are nominally allies in the Northern Alliance which toppled the Taliban with U.S. help last year, but regular skirmishes have broken out between their supporters in recent months.

Analysts said the clash overnight and early on Thursday represented underlying mistrust between the two factions that goes back years and a struggle for power and influence in the country's volatile north.

In the west of the country fierce fighting raged near a strategic air base on Thursday between forces of Ismail Khan, the powerful governor of the western city of Herat, and those loyal to rival warlord Amanullah Khan, travelers from the area said.

They said Amanullah Khan's fighters, backed by artillery fire, attacked Ismail Khan's troops six miles from Shindand air base in Farah province to the south of Herat.

They added that Amanullah Khan's men overran several rival positions, but there were no immediate reports of casualties.

The Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported separately that one man was killed and two wounded in overnight clashes between forces of commander Hazrat Ali and commander Zahir Shah in Angour Bagh area in the eastern city of Jalalabad.


Silva told a news conference in Kabul that five people had been wounded in the latest clashes in Pir Naqshi, an hour's drive north of Aibak, the provincial capital of Samangan, breaking a cease-fire in the area agreed last month.

Travelers from the region also reported heavy shelling in the Dara-i-Suf region in southwest Samangan, where at least 17 people were killed last week.

One of Atta's commanders in the area, Abdul Saboor, told Reuters Dostum's men had started the fighting by attacking his positions with around 1,000 men. There was no immediate comment from Dostum's officials.

In the western city of Herat Ismail Khan was presiding over a meeting of the city's military council and witnesses said reinforcements were seen heading out from Herat toward the fighting around Shindand.

Ismail Khan, an ethnic Tajik, and Amanullah Khan, from the main Afghan Pashtun group, have been bitter rivals for years.

Their forces have clashed several times this year around Shindand, a strategic air base established by the Soviets who occupied Afghanistan for 10 years until 1989.

The base, which is under Ismail Khan's control, was badly damaged by U.S. bombing that helped oust the former Taliban regime last year and has not been serviceable since.

The latest round of clashes to the south of the base came just days after Ismail Khan appointed a new ruler of Shindand district. Residents say the move angered Amanullah Khan, who comes from the region.

Ismail Khan has tight control over Herat and the surrounding provinces. The clashes with Amanullah Khan have been linked as often to lucrative trading routes as to the ethnic divide between the two men.

Related links:

  • Pashtuns driven from northern Afghan villages
  • "A female worker was gang raped in northern Afghanistan", UN
  • Witness reports of mass grave and war crimes, A NEWSWEEK investigation

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