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Saturday, 10 November, 2001, 17:41 GMT
City's capture is victory in media war
As the Afghan Taleban's Voice of Shariah radio in Balkh Province wound down its evening broadcast, everything sounded in order.

"This is Balkh, Afghanistan. Hello, esteemed listeners. God bless you," the announcer began the evening news in Uzbek.

We wish good night to you and may Almighty God bless you

Voice of Shariah's final words
After reading the first few items, however, the presenter was interrupted by a man speaking Dari.

"Here we end the evening programme of Radio Voice of Shariah," he said, 15 minutes before the scheduled close.

"We say goodbye to you till 0700 tomorrow morning [0230 GMT], when we will be at your service again," the man added. "We wish good night to you and may Almighty God bless you."

Taleban radio has not been heard since. Listening in at 0220 GMT ahead of the expected morning bulletin, a broadcast was heard to be in progress.

Sound of music

The signal was faint but audible. And there was music. There was singing. This was definitely not Taleban radio.

Mazar-e-Sharif and its surrounding areas have been completely liberated

Northern Alliance radio
Three minutes later, there was an announcement in Dari, one of the two main languages in Afghanistan.

"Dear pious and Muslim compatriots, peace be with you," the voice said.

"We congratulate you from the bottom of our heart on the victory of the Islamic State of Afghanistan," it continued. "Mazar-e-Sharif and its surrounding areas have been completely liberated."

Northern Alliance forces had captured the key northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif.

Reassuring noises

The gates of schools, enlightenment and education have now opened up

Northern Alliance radio
Throughout the morning, the radio continued to broadcast, principally in Dari, but also in Turkmen and Uzbek, major languages among the diverse ethnic groups that make up the Northern Alliance.

And there were lots of songs.

And promises of better things to come.

"You are now free of the noose of colonialism and ignorance," one announcement told listeners.

"The gates of schools, enlightenment and education have now opened up."

"All brothers will now surely live under the clear sky of peace and calm," it said, trying to dispel fears of Afghanistan's principal Pashtun ethnic group that the Northern Alliance did not represent them.

The opposition forces "are made up of all nationalities, such as Pashtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras and Turkmen, and other nationalities from other countries," the radio said.

Words of caution

But there were words of caution - for the victors.

Refrain from plundering and prevent opportunists from abusing the situation to humiliate the people

Commander Ali Sarwar
In an interview, an Uzbek commander of the conquering troops warned them to respect the civilians of Mazar-e-Sharif.

"Make a good judgement of the victories which have been bestowed on us from God," Ali Sarwar told his troops.

"Do not harass or humiliate the people, refrain from plundering and prevent opportunists from abusing the situation to humiliate the people."

"I ask the nation to be in harmony with the mujahidin and prevent opportunists from further abusing...

But the commander couldn't resist a final comment on the state of the Taleban forces.

"The enemy has completely lost his morale," he crowed. "His morale is zero."

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.

See also:

10 Nov 01 | South Asia
Afghan opposition claim new gains
10 Nov 01 | South Asia
Upping the stakes in Afghanistan
25 Sep 01 | South Asia
Profile: General Rashid Dostum
10 Nov 01 | Middle East
Al-Qaeda says its war continues
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