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Fighting Breaks Out in Northern Afghanistan

October 09, 2003|From Associated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan — Fighting between rival warlords erupted Wednesday near the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif as a deal was signed here in the capital that paves the way for U.N. and Afghan personnel to deploy to cities across Afghanistan to start disarming warlords' militias.

There was dispute over the casualties between the two sides in Mazar-i-Sharif, both of which claim allegiance to the central government of President Hamid Karzai.

A leader of one group said that as many as 60 people were killed, but a commander on the other side put the number at three. It was impossible to verify either account.

Gen. Abdul Sabur, a spokesman for warlord Atta Mohammed's faction, said by phone that fighters loyal to northern Uzbek commander Abdul Rashid Dostum began battling Mohammed's supporters about midday, and the battle continued late into the night.

Sabur said 60 people were killed in fighting that involved tanks, heavy artillery and other weapons.

Syad Noorulla, one of Dostum's commanders, said Atta's forces ambushed his troops about 30 miles west of Mazar-i-Sharif, killing three of his militiamen and wounding four.

The two sides have clashed repeatedly in the last two years, though they are nominally both loyal to Karzai. Numerous efforts by the U.N. and the Afghan government to mediate a peaceful resolution have failed.

Persuading the country's warlords, many of whom are also provincial governors, to surrender their weapons will be a major challenge. Some of them are allegedly involved in drug trafficking and other crimes and may see little benefit in giving up the arms that keep them in power.

The first international disarmament team outside Kabul is expected to be deployed Oct. 25 to the northern city of Kunduz. Teams are scheduled to be deployed to the cities of Gardez, Mazar-i-Sharif and Kabul later this year.

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