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Rival Afghan Factions Bury Their Dead, Following Heavy - 2002-02-01


Calm is reported in Afghanistan's eastern Paktia province, where at least 50 people were killed in two days of heavy fighting between rival factions.

Both sides spent the day (Friday) burying their dead and tending to their wounded, as local residents returned to their homes and shops in the eastern Afghan town of Gardez.

Forces loyal to the Paktia provincial governor (Padshah Khan Zadran) who was appointed by the interim Afghan government faced stiff resistance from troops loyal to a tribal chief (Haji Safiullah) who they say was elected to be governor. For two days, the two sides bombarded each other with mortar and artillery shells.

A team of mediators is being dispatched from Kabul to try to resolve the issue.

The fighting in Gardez highlights the difficulty Afghanistan's new interim government faces as it strives for unity and reconstruction, amid simmering tribal and factional rivalries.

The battle also added urgency to appeals made by interim Afghan leader Hamid Kharzai in London Thursday -- to expand the deployment of a multinational peacekeeping force beyond Kabul, to stop violent squabbling between powerful local warlords.

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