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Thursday, 18 October, 2001, 14:01 GMT 15:01 UK
War of words over Afghan town
As the fate of the northern town of Mazar-e Sharif hangs in the balance, Afghans on both sides of the divide have voiced their fighting spirit on air.

A Taleban commander said the town would be defended, while a Northern Alliance leader said taking it was a prime task.

Voice of Shariah radio, based in Mazar-e-Sharif, said the Taleban commander responsible for security there had reassured local people, saying they should go about their daily routines.

"The alert security personnel of Mazar-e-Sharif and Balkh Province will never allow anyone to undermine security," the commander said.

Security high

He was briefing religious leaders and security chiefs on measures being taken in and around Mazar-e-Sharif.

Our struggling forces are stable as the mountains

Taleban radio
"The forces of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan will fight America and its servants and will defend their Islamic aspirations," the commander, named as Mola Abdosalam Erawi, added.

A station commentary likewise stressed the Taleban would remain steadfast throughout Afghanistan: "The struggling forces of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan are stable like the mountains and prepared to put up strong resistance in all fields throughout the country against the US attacks."

Claim and counterclaim

Speaking for the other side, the interior minister of the Northern Alliance said the capture of Mazar-e-Sharif was a military objective.

"Currently our united front is achieving enormous progress. Many Taleban military units are deserting to our side," Mohammad Mohaqeq told state television in the Central Asian republic of Uzbekistan.

Mazar-e Sharif must become a peaceful heaven for us

Northern Alliance Interior Minister

He said the alliance had chalked up "great military victories" in Mazar-e-Sharif, Samangan and Sar-e Pol provinces.

"We have now set ourselves the goal of capturing Mazar-e-Sharif, while inflicting no damage on the town's administrative buildings and people's property by observing stern discipline, and avoiding casualties among innocent civilians," he said.

"Mazar-e-Sharif must become a peaceful heaven for us. Our military tactics as a whole involve preventing disorder when seizing major towns," Mohaqeq added.

He also said the Northern Alliance had no intention of joining forces with the Taleban. "The Taleban are now at a crossroads... They are appealing to us in the hope that we will jointly fight the war against the USA. But all their appeals are useless - for the nation knows their real face."

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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