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Monday, 26 November, 2001, 16:48 GMT
Kunduz celebrates end of siege
Northern Alliance soldiers arrest a Taleb in Kunduz
Remaining Taleban in the city are being arrested
Marcus George

The population of Kunduz has been out on the streets to welcome Northern Alliance forces who dislodged the Taleban from their last bastion in the north of Afghanistan.

Thousands of the city's inhabitants came out from behind locked doors this morning to a different way of life and a new government for the first time in four years.

The nine-day siege of Kunduz had made life near to impossible for people who were forced to stay in their homes because of rapidly disintegrating law and order during the siege.

Northern Alliance troops entered the city at eight o'clock on Monday morning and took control after a short skirmish in the city centre.

Street scene in Kunduz
Thousands of people welcomed the Northern Alliance

In a statement just hours after the fall of the city, General Daoud Khan claimed that planes from Pakistan had evacuated hundreds of foreign Taleban fighters.

"Some of the foreign Taleban were taken away by the Pakistani aircraft and we were not able to prevent the planes landing.

"We have hundreds of foreign prisoners. And many Taleban surrendered towards Mazar-e-Sharif.

"We waited for Kunduz to be captured for two weeks and fortunately last night we captured the city.

"It will soon be controlled by military force under my command."

Fighting around the airport

"It's a victory for the Islamic state of Afghanistan, against the terrorists and those who support them," General Daoud Khan said.

"But we do not require the assistance of the US army."

Fighting continued to the south of Kunduz around the airport where a group of Taleban were believed to be holding out.

But it was clear that after the morning events the siege was over and the population breathed a sigh of relief.

Alliance fighters moved around the city on top of tanks and in the back of trucks, revelling in the glory of victory.

Taleban defector leaves Kunduz
Many Taleban defected over the weekend

But there was little fighting. Many heard the planes arriving throughout the night to shuttle groups of foreign fighters to safety.

"I saw planes coming for the last three nights," said Zaher, a mechanic from Kunduz.

"Last night they came six times."

And there was no sign of foreign fighters in Kunduz which pleased the city's population.

"They treated the local people very badly. We were scared of them because they used to beat people and act unkindly," Zaher said.

"Kunduz was like a prison under the Taleban and now we have all been released."

Curfew

The town had come to a virtual standstill since the beginning of the siege 10 days ago.

The Taleban imposed a curfew from 7pm to 5am in recent days and threatened anyone who went into the bazaar, Zaher said.

But within hours of the arrival of alliance troops market traders had reopened their stores and customers queued to buy goods.

Northern Alliance soldiers
Northern Alliance soldiers now patrol the streets of Kunduz

"I haven't worked for a week," said Abdul Ali, a market trader.

"I'm so happy that I'm sitting in my shop again."

"Life in Kunduz has been really tough recently. I haven't been able to sleep for many nights because I had to guard my house against thieves."

But amid the general jubilance the city was still tense.

Beatings

Crowds watched as a prisoner, captured earlier in the day, was beaten up by a group of Northern Alliance fighters.

The prisoner, allegedly an Arab fighter, fell to the ground and was stamped on by fighters as the crowds cheered.

Control was barely contained. Within seconds people ran for cover as a guard let off rounds to calm the rabble.

Around the corner lay the body of a dead Taleb. His blood had stained the pavement dark red.

Young children clustered around the corpse, staring, pointing and laughing.

The body was drained and lifeless but, in this city, nobody seemed to care.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes in Kunduz
"The Taleban left town late last night"
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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