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Saturday, 3 November, 2001, 17:57 GMT
Taleban 'recapture northern district'
A US warplane drops bombs over Afghanistan
US planes have stepped up support for the Alliance
The Taleban say they have recaptured all the ground lost to the Northern Alliance in recent fighting near the town of Mazar-e-Sharif.

The Taleban said the area they had retaken included Aq-Kapruk, 70 kilometres (45 miles) south of the town, which the Alliance said they had captured after an overnight battle and the defection of 800 Taleban soldiers.

Kabul man carries firewood
Bearing the burden: A Kabul man carries firewood
The Taleban said there was no danger to their hold on the city, and American bombing of their front lines in the area had been ineffective.

Over the past few weeks, a series of Northern Alliance offensives and Taleban counter-offensives have been reported near the key northern town of Mazar-e-Sharif.

A Taleban spokesman denied there had been a mass defection of troops.

Little progress seen

The BBC's Mike Wooldridge in northern Afghanistan says the overall impression is that the Northern Alliance has as yet made little headway towards taking the town.

Its capture would deliver them a city of considerable historic importance at the crossroads of major highways, and a valuable base for operations deeper into Afghanistan.

American warplanes have been stepping up support for the Northern Alliance on this front as elsewhere in recent days.

This could lead to the battle lines being redrawn.

See also:

02 Nov 01 | South Asia
Taleban hunt key rebel leader
02 Nov 01 | Europe
Turkey rejects Ramadan pause
02 Nov 01 | South Asia
The Taleban: Accommodating hosts
20 Oct 01 | Americas
Profile: US special forces
02 Nov 01 | Business
UK expands terror funds list
27 Sep 01 | South Asia
The Taleban's winter ally
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