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Monday, August 9, 1999 Published at 16:40 GMT 17:40 UK

World: South Asia

Taleban get student reinforcements

Taleban reinforcements are moving to the frontline

By Rahimullah Yusufzai in Peshawar

Religious madrasas or seminaries in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province are being closed to enable their Afghan students to return home.

They are expected to reinforce the ruling Taleban which is battling the opposition northern alliance.

The move follows a message to the heads of the seminaries from Taleban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar.

Support for the Taleban

The first seminary to close down is also the biggest in the area.

[ image: Thousands of refugees have fled the fighting]
Thousands of refugees have fled the fighting
Darul Uloom Haqqani, located in Akora Khattak town about 50 km from Peshawar, was closed for 10 days on the orders of its head Maulana Samiul Haq.

The maulana heads his own faction of the religio-political party, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam, which supports Afghanistan's Taleban movement.

A press release said the maulana decided to send a batch of 2,000 of his Afghan students to Afghanistan, in view of the escalation of fighting there between the Taleban and northern alliance commander Ahmad Shah Masood.

Maulana Samiul Haq urged the Afghan students to immediately return to Afghanistan and fight the enemy.

He said all religious forces should put aside their differences and support the Taleban administration in Afghanistan in order to, what he described as, foil the conspiracies being hatched there by the US, Europe and India.

Taleban request

One of his party leaders, Maulana Yousaf Shah, told the BBC the decision to shut down the seminary was made after a message by Taleban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar.

He said the message was brought by Mullah Omar's special emissary, Maulana Abul Hasan Haqqani.

Other religious schools in the province were also in the process of closing down for 10 days to enable their Afghan students to return to bolster the ranks of the Taleban.

Afghan sources said transport was being arranged to take the students to Kabul and other places in Afghanistan.

The sources said these students would mostly be assigned administrative and security duties, while those trained in warfare would be sent to the frontlines.

The sources were unable to explain whether the reinforcements were being sought ahead of another Taleban offensive against the forces of Ahmad Shah Masood.

In their recent offensive, the Taleban made some significant gains in Parwan and Kapisa province north and north-east of Kabul, before being pushed back to the old frontlines by Masood's fighters.

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