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21 Reported Killed as Rival Afghan Forces Clash in Herat

August 15, 2004|From Associated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan — Fighters loyal to rival warlords clashed in western Afghanistan on Saturday, sending tanks into the streets of a regional capital in the latest jolt to the country's shaky security ahead of October's presidential election.

By one estimate, more than 20 fighters were killed.

The U.S. military expressed concern about the violence but did not intervene. So far, Afghanistan's army also was staying out of the fight -- a sign of the central government's weakness.

The clashes pitted forces loyal to Herat Gov. Ismail Khan, an ethnic Tajik and one of the country's most powerful warlords, against rivals in the north, east and south of the province.

In the fiercest clash, a commander from Shindand, about 370 miles west of the capital, Kabul, said his men seized a Soviet-built air base in an overnight attack.

"By 4 a.m. we had captured the whole of the district, including the airport and the division," said Amanullah, an ethnic Pushtun commander who uses only one name.

He said his fighters killed 14 of Khan's men and captured 20. Seven of his own men also died, he said.

Abdul Wahed Tawakali, a spokesman for Khan, said there was fighting near the base, but he denied it had fallen. He had no information on casualties.

Herat officials said other dissident forces fought Khan's troops near Karokh, north of Herat city, and in Chishti Sharif, a valley in the Hindu Kush.

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