Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Taliban Leave Kunduz to the Arab Diehards

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Taliban Leave Kunduz to the Arab Diehards

Article excerpt

Byline: SAM KILEY

TALIBAN fighters in their last northern Afghan stronghold of Kunduz were surrendering today, leaving thousands of foreign volunteers behind determined to fight on for fear of retribution.

Anti-Taliban forces of the Northern Alliance were hurrying towards the city on foot and by truck as Taliban fighters began to escape by any means they could. Live TV pictures showed fighters in lorries and on the back of armoured cars streaming towards the city while Taliban fighters fled towards the Alliance front lines.

American B52 bombers continued to pound what were thought to be al Qaeda positions in the nearby hills. However, some Taliban in the city seemed determined to hold out, launching their first mortar attack in days even as surrender talks with Alliance leaders continued.

Shells pounded a heavily trafficked front line road out of Kunduz, sending refugee women scattering for their lives.

Some dived into ditches, their fingers tearing at the dirt as shells pounded around them while others ran to a nearby mosque, cowering inside before moving on when the firing stopped. The

Northern siege of Kunduz appeared to reaching a decisive moment after a one-week stand-off.

Hardcore Afghan Taliban leaders and Arab, Pakistani and other foreign Islamic militia had retreated to Kunduz from across northern Afghanistan after losing district after district to the opposition alliance.

Earlier, Kunduz Taliban commander Mullah Faizal told reporters after talks with Northern Alliance warlord General Abdul Rashid Dostum that thousands of Afghan Taliban were ready to surrender. The Northern Alliance says Afghan Taliban troops in the city have been ready to surrender for days, but their Pakistani, Arab and Chechen comrades, linked to al Qaeda, were fighting to the death, fearing Alliance forces would show them no mercy.

Northern Alliance commanders and officials gave conflicting accounts of the terms of any surrender, saying variously that proposals would allow Afghan Taliban among the Kunduz forces to join their side or retreat to the southern base of Kandahar. …

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