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Thursday, 15 August, 2002, 10:28 GMT 11:28 UK
Warlords hamper Afghan peace hopes
Afghan hillfighters
Disarming militias: Huge task for Karzai's government

The United Nations in Afghanistan says that outbreaks of violence between local militia leaders have continued to plague the country over the past month.

Last weekend, eight Afghan soldiers were killed in a clash between two commanders, near the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif.

Afghan army recruits in training
Central authority is currently limited to Kabul

However the UN then intervened to broker a successful peace agreement.

On Wednesday, Afghanistan's defence minister, Mohamed Fahim, announced new plans for disarming warlords.

He said that all weapons would in future be the property of the new national army.

Thirst for revenge

The roots of the clash that occurred near Mazar-e-Sharif last week, go back 23 years.

According to the UN, two local Afghan commanders had been in conflict ever since one of the men had killed the other's father, more than two decades ago.

Last Friday, their long-standing feud and the thirst for revenge, once again came to a head.

In the ensuing conflict eight soldiers were killed and 11 captured.

A United Nations political officer from Mazar-e-Sharif was despatched under the mandate which the UN has to help with reconciliation in Afghanistan.

He managed to broker an agreement between the two warlords, secure the handover of the eight bodies and the release of the prisoners being held.

The UN says the two militia leaders agreed to return to Mazar-e-Sharif, and they are now complying with the peace deal.

There have been on further reports of unrest in the north of the country, but the incident clearly illustrates the huge task facing the Afghan Government in trying to extend its authority beyond Kabul and disarm local factions.

The defence minister, Mohamed Fahim, wants all weapons to be surrendered to the new Afghan national army.

But that's a move likely to be strongly resisted by some militia groups around the country.


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