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Monday, 26 November, 2001, 19:56 GMT
Northern Alliance takes Kunduz
Northern Alliance soldiers watch a column of Taleban trucks
Thousands of Taleban had already surrendered
The northern Afghan city of Kunduz has finally fallen to the forces of the Northern Alliance.

BBC correspondent Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, speaking from the city centre, says local people told him the Taleban had left late on Sunday night and alliance troops moved in shortly after.

The atmosphere in Kunduz is very festive, with thousands of people milling around, our correspondent says. The city centre appears to be unscathed, but there are reports of heavy bomb damage around the airport and in the suburbs.

Earlier there was some sporadic fighting with the last remnants of the Taleban in the city, and some shooting continued around the airport.

Click here for map of the battlegrounds

The alliance's foreign minister, Abdullah Abdullah, told a news conference in the capital Kabul that the city was now "totally clean" of the Taleban, though there were still pockets of resistance in the district of Char Dara to the west.

Northern Alliance fighter embraces an Afghan defector
Afghan Taleban defectors over the weekend were given a warm welcome
Hundreds of people died in the heavy US air raids and shelling by the Northern Alliance, Kunduz residents said.

An alliance commander, General Abdul Rashid Dostum, said 6,000 Taleban fighters had surrendered.

He said their rights would be respected, and it was up to the United Nations to decide what to do with them.

But he refused to clarify what would happen to those who resisted arrest. He described the situation inside Kunduz as normal.

But some reports say wounded Taleban prisoners have been beaten and executed in the streets.

Speaking to the BBC earlier, another alliance commander, General Daoud, said most of the Taleban fighters in Kunduz had chosen to lay down their weapons and surrender peacefully in the last few days, but an unspecified number had been killed.

The Taleban in Kunduz included foreigners - mainly Pakistanis, Chechens and Arabs - who have suffered brutal treatment at hands of Northern Alliance forces during their takeover of other Afghan cities in recent weeks.

Air activity

Kunduz residents said that during the past three nights there was intense air activity at the airport. They believe Pakistani aircraft had evacuated trapped foreign fighters.

There has been no independent confirmation of the alleged evacuations.

The foreigners, who are seen as destabilising elements in the country, have attracted intense local hatred. Some were beaten or killed during the fall of the capital Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif over the last two weeks.

But former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani has said that Northern Alliance troops will not "injure or harass" the foreign fighters in Kunduz.

"Although they have committed some war crimes in Afghanistan they come under the general amnesty that we have declared and they will be pardoned if they put their guns down," Mr Rabbani said.

He added that those captured could be handed over to the United Nations.

The fall of Kunduz frees up Northern Alliance and United States forces to concentrate their attacks on the main Taleban strongholds in and around the southern city of Kandahar.




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 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jane Bennett-Powell
"The Northern Alliance paraded through the streets"
The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes in Kunduz
"There was a firefight in the middle of the city"
Sir Tim Garden, Kings' College London
"The last bastion the Taleban had in the north was Kunduz"
See also:

25 Nov 01 | South Asia
Rabbani vows to protect foreigners
25 Nov 01 | South Asia
An army of generals
24 Nov 01 | South Asia
Pakistan warns of Kunduz 'tragedy'
24 Nov 01 | South Asia
Eyewitness: Defections in Kunduz
22 Nov 01 | South Asia
Meeting Taleban's foreign fighters
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