KABUL, Afghanistan — The northern alliance in this nation claimed to have pushed its extremist Islamic opponents out of the north's biggest city Sunday, a day after the Taliban militia claimed to have captured it.
The city of Mazar-i-Sharif was the latest prize to fall to the Taliban militia in a series of spectacular victories in Afghanistan's civil war. Iran accused the Taliban of capturing 11 of its diplomats there and demanded their release.
The Taliban said Mazar-i-Sharif was calm Sunday. Reports on the situation in the city 190 miles north of Kabul, the Afghan capital, could not immediately be confirmed.
The Taliban emerged in 1994, pledging to bring peace to Afghanistan after years of civil war. Indian-based Afghan Ambassador Masoud Khalili, who has remained loyal to the president the Taliban ousted from the capital two years ago, claimed Mazar-i-Sharif residents "rose and took up arms and fought along with government soldiers" to push the Taliban out. Taliban casualties were heavy, but there were no details on alliance casualties, Khalili said.
A fierce defense of Mazar-i-Sharif had been expected. Its loss would be a severe blow to an opposition backed into a dwindling corner of northern Afghanistan, and a boost to the Taliban's 4-year-old campaign to impose its Islamic rule on the entire country.
The anti-Taliban alliance was also under pressure Sunday near Kabul in the Panjshir Valley, losing a few miles of territory in overnight fighting.