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Tuesday, 5 June, 2001, 12:21 GMT 13:21 UK
Afghan fighting flares up
Yakawlang lies on the main road north from Kabul
Heavy fighting has broken out in central and north-eastern Afghanistan, with the ruling Taleban and the opposition both claiming territorial gains.

Opposition forces said they ousted Taleban fighters from the strategic town of Yakawlang, in central Bamiyan province, after a fierce overnight battle.

According to news reports, the Taleban responded by bombing surrounding hilltops.

Yakawlang, which has changed hands five times in the last five months, lies on the Taleban's main north-south supply route and the only open road north from Kabul.

It is in the province of Bamiyan, where the Taleban destroyed two giant statues of the Buddha in March.

Taleban claims

In the north-east Takhar province, the Taleban say they have captured Chal district and are still advancing.

An anti-Taleban fighter on patrol
Opposition fighters carry out guerrilla-style raids
An opposition spokesman, Mohammad Habeel, acknowledged in an interview with Reuters news agency that their forces had lost two villages.

But he denied Taleban claims to have won total control of the area.

The BBC's Afghanistan correspondent Kate Clark says Chal is important because it is near the provincial town of Taloqan - the former military base of opposition leader Ahmed Shah Massoud.

He lost the town last autumn and is determined to recapture it.

But the Taleban are now pushing hard against opposition lines around Taloqan in the hope of holding surrounding higher ground.

The Taleban control about 90% of Afghanistan, but have so far failed to force opposition forces from the remaining areas.

Analysts said the latest fighting reflects Taleban efforts to cut the opposition off from its border supplies.

The opposition has tried to frustrate the Taleban by making guerrilla-type attacks on places like Yakawlang.

In January, according to the UN and human rights groups, the Taleban killed 170 civilians in Yakowlang in revenge for opposition activity.

When the Taleban last captured the district a month ago, an estimated 60,000 people fled, mainly to higher summer pastures.

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See also:

27 May 01 | South Asia
Afghans threatened with no bread
16 Aug 00 | South Asia
Taleban shuts women's bakeries
28 Jun 00 | South Asia
Annan: Kabul's grim future
20 Jul 00 | South Asia
Ban on Afghan women to stay
11 Jan 00 | South Asia
Afghanistan: Women under Taleban rule
03 Aug 98 | South Asia
Analysis: Who are the Taleban?
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