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1996: Taleban gains threaten Kabul

Opposition fighters in Afghanistan have reached the eastern suburbs of Kabul and are poised to take control of the country's capital.

Taleban fighters have captured the strategically important Sarobi, 45 miles east of Kabul, which allowed them to march easily to within three miles of the city centre.

Their advance is the biggest threat to the coalition of five factions that make up the Afghan government since the civil war began in 1992.

Mullah Mohammed Omar, the leader of the Islamic fundamentalist movement, said President Burhanuddin Rabbani was preparing to flee and offered the government forces amnesty if they surrender.

Defections

The Taleban victory follows the capture of the previously secure Silk Gorge six days ago - which even the Soviet army failed to take during the 10 years they tried to occupy the country.

A senior member of the Afghan administration blamed recent defeats on government force commanders defecting to the Taleban.

President Rabbani's coalition has also accused Pakistan of backing Mullah Omar, but a Foreign Office spokesman in Islamabad has denied the allegation.

The secretive one-eyed leader and his student fighters have taken control of two thirds of Afghanistan and are close to imposing their strict interpretation of Islamic law on the entire country.

The only serious opposition they face is from General Abdul Rashid Dostam - the northern warlord who controls the country's lucrative natural gas and oil supplies.

In Context
Two days later the Taleban fighters swept into the city and declared an Islamist state.

They imposed Sharia law, which enforced punishments such as amputation and stoning to death.

Mullah Omar's grip on the country ended after the 11 September attacks in the United States which were blamed on one of his guests - Osama Bin Laden.

The opposition Northern Alliance - who seized the opportunity of US backing - marched into the capital in November 2001.


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