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Afghan Opposition: Taleban Fighters Deserting - 2001-10-01


Afghanistan's anti-Taleban Northern Alliance says about one-thousand Taleban fighters have deserted their posts or defected to the opposition in recent days.

The Northern Alliance claim comes as fighting continues in northwestern Afghanistan, where the opposition says it has captured territory near Qalaye Now, capital of Badghis province.

The Northern Alliance's Foreign Minister (Abdullah) made the claims Sunday at a news conference in the Tajik capital of Dushanbe. The opposition also says that a Taleban commander, Mohammad Suleman, has defected to the Northern Alliance, along with 70 of his fighters.

The Northern Alliance launched an offensive against the Taleban shortly after the murder of their military leader Ahmad Shah Masood earlier this month. Russia has said it will increase military support for the alliance, which controls between five and 10 percent of Afghanistan's territory.

Meanwhile, Taleban radio reports that there was an explosion in Baghram, near Kabul on Saturday that killed 12 opposition soldiers. The Associated Press quotes an opposition spokesman who says the explosion killed five people.

There has been no independent confirmation of the battlefield claims.

But in another sign of dissent, Taleban authorities say they have arrested six men for distributing pamphlets calling on people to support the United States and former Afghan King Mohammad Zahir Shah.

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