Fighting between Taliban and allies in north Afghanistan

Fighting between the Taliban and an allied armed group in northern Afghanistan has killed up to 60 rebels and 19 civilians, according to Afghan police. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-i-Islami claim the casualty figures are exaggerated.

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar AFP

The fighting broke out early Saturday in Baghlan province.

“We have intelligence reports that 60 fighters – 40 Hezb-i-Islami and 20 Taliban – have died so far,” provincial police chief Kabir Andarabi told the AFP news agency. Reports indicated 19 civilians killed, he said, adding that four Hezb-I-Islami commanders have surrendered to the government.

Hezb-I-Islami representatives have confirmed that the clashes took place but claim to have lost only a handful of fighters and killed about 15 Taliban. They told Al Jazeera TV that the fighting erupted after Taliban members ordered local people to swear allegiance to their leader, Mullah Omar.

The group is an armed group fighting Hamid Karzai’s government which is based in the north, where the Taliban are less strong. It is led by Hekmatyar, a former Prime Minister and anti-Soviet mujahedeen who is a powerful warlord in the region.

Q+A: Correspondent Jerome Starkey in Kabul

Hekmatyar is reported to have held tentative talks with the government, as part of Karzai’s effort to win over armed groups hostile to his rule. While the Taliban demand that foreign troops leave before any talks take place, he is prepared to tolerate their presence for a further 18 months, according to the Christian Science Monitor and the McClatchy newspapers webiste.

Al Jazeera also reports that a rocket or mortar was fired at Karzai while he was on a visit to Helmand province on Sunday. No casualties are reported.

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