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RAY SUAREZ: Now, an update on the situation in northern Afghanistan, where Taliban forces still control the town of Kunduz. Negotiations for their surrender broke down yesterday. Gaby Rado of Independent Television News reports.
GABY RADO: Today’s skies above Kunduz were slashed through the vapor trails of American bombers from first light. Whatever the talk of surrender down below, the U.S. Air Force was keeping up the pressure from above. The smoke from their bombs was visible in the distance. Soldiers of the United Front or northern alliance were clearly encouraged by what they saw in the skies. The front lines are inching toward Kunduz, squeezing it from both east and west. From our position on the east, we saw Taliban forces on the ridge of a hill above the town of Kahrnabad, just outside Kunduz – remarkably, also heard a Taliban commander speaking over a walkie-talkie. ( Speaking Pashtun )
GABY RADO: reporter: The man talking from inside Kunduz is trying to negotiate the defection of himself and 100 of his men, along with some of their equipment. The United Front officer with a walkie-talkie says he’s sending a go-between, but the Taliban says he only wants to talk to a United Front commander called Rahjad, whom he knows. Knowing it has the upper hand, United Front is encouraging a split between Taliban fighters who are Afghan and those from outside, Pakistanis, Arabs, and Chechens. Afghans are being offered a safe return to their homes, while foreigners face imprisonment and criminal trial or even worse. Though from these front lines everything is simply rumor, there are reports of foreign Taliban forces killing Afghans who want to surrender.
GENERAL ABDUL DAYON, United Front (Translated): We only talk to the Afghans. We don’t have any contact with the foreign Taliban because they deceived our people and attacked our country. Whenever they want to change sides, we will respect their human rights. They may be killed in battle, but if we capture them, we will behave with humanity.
GABY RADO: Though cameras were kept away from today’s fighting, there was evidence of it in the local hospital. United Front fighters were brought in with injuries sustained in battle. As everywhere in Afghanistan, doctors are having to cope with serious shortages of medical supplies. As the day wore on, tanks and armored vehicles amassed on a hill dominating the road to Kunduz, deployed here on the east of the side of the city are the Tajik forces of general Muhammad Daoud; over on the west are the Uzbeks of General Abdul Rasheed Dohstum. Many believe the two United Front warlords are vying with each other to be the first to capture the prize. As the sun sets over Kunduz behind me, the situation appears to be at a stalemate. There are almost certainly disputes among the Taliban about whether to surrender and whom to surrender to. The longer that goes on, the more the likelihood grows of a United Front attack, and the rumors here this evening are that that attack may come as early as tonight.
RAY SUAREZ: This week the Taliban invited western reporters to visit refugee camps they control near the southern city of Kandahar. Dostum but yesterday they changed their minds. ITN’s Bill Neely reports.
BILL NEELY: In southern Afghanistan, as further north, conflict and a little chaos has quickly as the Taliban had taken us into their camp, they ordered us out. We were given one hour to leave. They have lost most of their weapons and most of their territory. Today they lost patience with scrutiny from the inside. It’s not at all clear why we’re being expelled. The Taliban say it’s for our own security. But exactly how our security is at risk and from whom, they’re not saying. They had said they would take us to their stronghold of Kandahar, but we could see American planes on their way to bomb it. The Taliban’s difficulty in keeping control was soon clear. They took us on convoy towards the Pakistan border, but when we stopped at a town, the locals turned on us — almost pulling me out through a side window, then attacking the car.
BILL NEELY: Has he got the key?
SPOKESMAN: This guy here is still….
BILL NEEY: Trapped inside the car we watched perhaps a dozen Taliban gunmen surround it and fight off a mob of angry locals. The very sight of foreigners clearly enrages many Afghans who have been bombed for months. As we left, more Taliban fighters were heading for their besieged base at Kandahar, further conflict there inevitable.
RAY SUAREZ: Most of the remaining forces are massed in Kandahar. The Washington Post reported today that Taliban leaders there have detained the wives and children of hundreds of Afghan fighters to prevent the men from fleeing or surrendering.