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Tuesday, 13 November, 2001, 19:41 GMT
US allies tighten grip on Kabul
Northern Alliance security forces in Kabul
Alliance fighters have set up checkpoints in Kabul
The Northern Alliance is consolidating its hold on the Afghan capital, and has invited the United Nations to help organise discussions on a post-Taleban government.

The movement's fighters entered Kabul unopposed to scenes of chaos and jubilation on Monday night after a series of sweeping advances in the north.

They have now occupied government buildings and set up checkpoints in the city.

There was no option for us but to send our security forces into Kabul

Northern Alliance foreign minister
Women, already casting off their veils, have been told they can go back to work, and girls to school - activities banned by the city's strict former rulers, whose troops fled south towards their heartland.

Alliance Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah sought to allay international concern by inviting UN representatives into Kabul along with other Afghan groups for discussions on the country's future administration.

"Taliban excluded," he told a news conference in the capital.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has urged the Security Council to avert a security vacuum in Afghanistan and back efforts to form a broad-based government.

Children fight for a blanket after looting a warehouse in Kabul
Kabul residents fight for precious supplies
The Taleban leader, meanwhile, is reported to have ordered his troops to regroup and fight.

The Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press says Mullah Mohammed Omar told his men from his southern stronghold of Kandahar to obey their commanders and not to desert.

Click here for map of the battlegrounds

Backed by US bombing, Northern Alliance troops broke through two lines of Taleban trenches north of Kabul on Monday, advancing quickly on the capital.

His Majesty is concerned about the safety of the people

Spokesman for ex-King Zahir Shah
BBC defence correspondent Jonathan Marcus says the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, wanted for September's devastating attacks in the US, may only move into high gear once more of the country is in the hands of groups friendly to the US.

The Northern Alliance had said it would heed calls for it not to take Kabul until a government representing Afghanistan's many different groups could be formed.

The country's former King, Zahir Shah, has accused the Northern Alliance of reneging on earlier promises.

"This was something new and beyond our expectations," his spokesman, Abdul Sattar Sirat, said.

Many in the capital remember years of bitter factional fighting which reduced much of Kabul to rubble in the early 1990s.

Mr Abdullah said, however, that security concerns had left the former opposition with little option but to enter the city, where it had now massed a 6,000-strong force.

In other developments:

  • Unconfirmed reports say Northern Alliance troops have taken Jalalabad and Kandahar airport, and reached the Pakistani border - both claims denied by the Taleban
  • Evidence emerges of massacres by retreating Taleban forces in the central town of Bamiyan, which they have totally destroyed
  • The Taleban take eight foreign aid workers accused of preaching Christianity from Kabul to Kandahar
  • The White House describes the situation in Kabul as "very fluid" - but a senior Pentagon official says the Taleban departure is "great news"
  • Pakistan says it hopes no single group will occupy Kabul and calls for a demilitarised zone there

Old freedoms return

Residents of Kabul said music - banned by the Taleban - was broadcast on Kabul radio for the first time in five years.

Refugee in northern Afghanistan
Afghans have been glued to their radios

"You can celebrate this great victory," a female announcer told residents - another novelty in a city where women have been banned from most work and education since 1996.

And men have been queuing at barbers' shops to have their beards shaved off - another gesture of freedom from the strict Taleban interpretation of Islam.

The Kabul office of Qatar-based al-Jazeera television took a direct hit from a US bomb overnight. The building was destroyed, but the staff had already left the building.

BBC correspondent William Reeve says a US bomb landed earlier on a house about 100 metres from the BBC office where he was broadcasting. The blast smashed all the office's windows.

Northern Alliance gains

The advance followed sweeping gains by the Northern Alliance across the north of the country on Monday.

BBC correspondent William Reeve in office as bomb hits nearby house
BBC correspondent William Reeve survived a bomb blast in Kabul
As they neared Kabul, villagers stood cheering, some throwing flowers on alliance tanks as they drove past.

The alliance has also taken control of the key western city of Herat and is pursuing retreating Taleban forces in the north-eastern Kunduz province.

Herat commands vital highways leading to Iran and Turkmenistan.

It could also be the gateway for an advance on Kandahar.

Correspondents say the war in southern Afghanistan could be very different, as the Northern Alliance itself may be unwilling to press on into largely Pashtun territory.

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The BBC's John Simpson
"There was an ugly price to be paid for so much repression"
The BBC's Rageh Omaar
"It was exactly the kind of disorder that the Western allies must have been fearing"
Jim McDermott, Democrat Congressman
"I think we've got a serious problem"
See also:

13 Nov 01 | South Asia
Pakistan concern at Kabul's fall
12 Nov 01 | Americas
Powers search for Afghan settlement
11 Nov 01 | South Asia
Bin Laden nuclear fears calmed
12 Nov 01 | South Asia
Herat, the 'pearl' of Afghanistan
12 Nov 01 | South Asia
Mazar residents hail Taleban defeat
12 Nov 01 | South Asia
Major boost for Afghan aid effort
13 Nov 01 | South Asia
Analysis: The Taleban collapse
13 Nov 01 | South Asia
In pictures: Opposition takes Kabul
13 Nov 01 | South Asia
West hails capture of Kabul
13 Nov 01 | South Asia
Hunt for Bin Laden hots up
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