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Saturday, 24 November, 2001, 15:26 GMT
Eyewitness: Defections in Kunduz
Taliban troops
There is hope of a peaceful end to the siege of Kunduz
Marcus George

After days of rumour and speculation the surrender of Taleban troops inside Kunduz finally appears to have started.

Scores of Taleban vehicles streamed across the frontline, their horns beeping and lights flashing.

They were welcomed by Northern Alliance troops who clapped them as they passed by.


The defecting Taliban were heavily armed
These are fighters, who until this morning comprised part of the dreaded Taleban military machine. And here they were moving into anti-Taleban territory, posing for the press with smiles on their faces.

Further back two Taleban tanks clanked by, until their fuel ran dry and they were forced to stop.

Heavy weapons

After refilling, one of them needed a bump start from a fellow tank team to resume their journey.

The Northern Alliance say that about 1,000 Taleban fighters were joining their forces but little more than a few hundred were evident.

They had left their positions around Khanabad in the early afternoon after an agreement was reached between the northern Alliance and their commander Hamidullah Khan, I was told.

The fighters, who were still armed to the teeth with rocket launchers and assault rifles signified that this is not so much a surrender as a defection.

Camera shy

After days of stalemate and media patience wearing thin, camera crews were lapping up every frame they could find.

But senior Taleban were still camera shy. I approached one commander to asked him what was happening.

He glanced at me coldly and gestured I should leave him alone. With several hundred of his armed men around him, I decided not to argue.

Reports coming from the far side of Kunduz say that 600 Taleban fighters have also surrendered to forces under the command of the Northern Alliance's General Dostum.

It is believed that some of these are foreign fighters but this has not been confirmed.

An officer in the Alliance's tank division, Jomah Khan, told me this was the beginning of the full surrender of Kunduz.


We expect more groups to surrender tomorrow

Jomah Khan, Northern Alliance Officer
"In the next few days we will be in the town without having to resort to fighting.

"We expect more groups to surrender tomorrow. We have heard from these Taleban that other groups are scattered, without any organisation," he said.

There is real hope now that this is the start of a peaceful end to the siege of Kunduz stand off.

But Sunday's surrender only involved local Afghan Taleban. The nagging question over the fate of foreign fighters trapped in the city remains.

"We hope the foreigners will decide to surrender," Jomah Khan said. "The people in Kunduz are suffering and are fearful about what will happen.

"But we will use force if we must."

See also:

24 Nov 01 | South Asia
Taleban fighters surrender
24 Nov 01 | South Asia
Rabbani 'to accept Bonn decision'
20 Nov 01 | South Asia
In pictures: Afghans flee Kunduz
23 Nov 01 | South Asia
Anti-Taleban fighters executed
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