Afghanistan's opposition Northern Alliance says its forces have captured the strategic northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif.
Opposition leaders said alliance troops met little resistance and that Taleban forces are fleeing the city. The independent Afghan Islamic Press quotes the Taleban as saying its forces have withdrawn from Mazar and are regrouping outside the city.
Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Stufflebeem said the Pentagon finds the reports "encouraging," but he added that U-S defense officials could not confirm the city has fallen. Admiral Stufflebeem called the opposition claims -- in his words -- "a positive sign."
U-S officials say control of Mazar and area airfields would be a major victory in the war against the Taleban. Admiral Stufflebeem says being able to use a major airfield inside Afghanistan would greatly increase the shipment and distribution of humanitarian aid to the Afghan people.
Earlier Friday, U-S fighter jets and B-52 bombers pounded Taleban positions ahead of the opposition advance. U-S warplanes also hit areas around the Afghan capital Kabul and in and around the Taleban's southern stronghold Kandahar.