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Last Updated: Friday, 10 October, 2003, 08:43 GMT 09:43 UK
Afghan warlords ceasefire holds
General Dostum's militia
General Dostum's militiamen fought those of Atta Mohammad
A ceasefire between rival warlords in northern Afghanistan appeared to be holding on Friday following some of the worst factional violence since the Taleban fell two years ago.

Troops loyal to warlords Atta Mohammad and Abdul Rashid Dostum were preparing to draw back from frontline positions west of Mazar-e-Sharif, 310 kilometres (190 miles) north of Kabul.

The number of casualties from the fighting is uncertain but reports say up to 80 soldiers may have been killed or wounded.

The ceasefire was brokered late on Thursday by the Afghan Government to which both factions are loyal.

Under the terms of the truce, both sides are scheduled to withdraw 30 kilometres from the frontlines before Saturday and then return troops to bases.

Commanders to meet

There were no reports of new clashes on Friday with both sides expressing hope the truce would last.

"We are all very happy the fighting has stopped," Hashim Khan, one of Atta Mohammad's commanders, told the AP news agency.

"Now is the time in Afghanistan for reconstruction and peace. It is not the time for fighting. This has been very bad. My side will never be the first to break the ceasefire, never."

Commanders from both sides are due to meet on Friday in the United Nations' offices in Mazar-e-Sharif.

The ceasefire terms call for the dispatch of 300 police from Kabul to secure Mazar-e-Sharif, where local police are believe to be split in their loyalties between the two warlords.

There will also be a commission to investigate the cause of the conflict.

A government spokesman said it was probably a dispute over land or access to water.

General Dostum, who leads the minority Uzbek community, and Atta Mohammad, head of the mainly Tajik Jamiat-i-Islami militia, are long-term rivals for control of northern Afghanistan.

Both men nominally support President Hamid Karzai. General Dostum is deputy defence minister.

The fighting further illustrates the problems facing President Hamid Karzai in imposing order beyond the capital, Kabul.

The government is committed to a plan to disarm the country's warlords.

But correspondents say there are serious doubts as to whether the new national army and police force will be strong enough to impose order throughout the country.


SEE ALSO:
Afghan warlords agree ceasefire
09 Oct 03  |  South Asia
Nato 'agrees wider Afghan force'
06 Oct 03  |  South Asia
Karzai shuffles defence ministry
21 Sep 03  |  South Asia
Profile: General Rashid Dostum
25 Sep 01  |  South Asia
Afghanistan 'out of control'
10 Aug 03  |  South Asia
Afghan militias 'should disband'
19 Jul 03  |  South Asia
Country profile: Afghanistan
22 Jul 03  |  Country profiles


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