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1000 Taleban Fighters Surrender outside Kunduz - 2001-11-24


Northern Alliance commanders say more than one-thousand Taleban defenders of the northern Afghan city Kunduz surrendered Saturday, including hundreds of foreign militants.

Alliance commanders say many Afghan fighters laid down their weapons, while others switched sides to join the fight against the Taleban. Alliance military leaders say they expect the surrender of Kunduz to be finalized Sunday under an agreement negotiated over the past several days. The proposed deal guarantees safe passage for Afghan Taleban, while foreign fighters would be detained in camps pending investigation into suspected links with fugitive terror suspect Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida group.

Alliance military units are making preparations to take the city by force in case foreign fighters refuse to surrender. The volunteers -- mainly Arabs, Pakistanis and Chechens -- say they would rather fight than face what they believe to be certain death in retaliation for their actions.

Elsewhere, fighting between Alliance forces and the Taleban was reported Saturday at Maidan Shahr, near the capital Kabul. Reuters (news agency) quotes witnesses as saying the clashes stopped after most of the Taleban fighters decided to switch sides, a common practice during Afghanistan's decade-long civil war.

Anti-Taleban forces in southern Afghanistan say they have taken control of Takhtapul, a town that lies between the Taleban stronghold of Kandahar and the border with Pakistan. Taleban leaders have denied the claim and say their forces have repulsed an alliance attack east of Kandahar. Neither side's report has been confirmed.

Meanwhile, U-S and Alliance ground troops continue hunting for Osama bin Laden and senior al-Qaida and Taleban officials. Associated Press quotes a senior Alliance military commander (Hazrat Ali) in Jalalabad as saying he has credible information the extremist terrorist leader is in the area. The alliance official is quoted as saying Osama bin Laden is hiding in caves by day and traveling between hideouts on horseback at night.

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