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1996: Afghan forces routed as Kabul falls

VIDEO : Afghan government forces leave as Kabul is taken

The capital of Afghanistan has fallen to opposition militia after three days of fierce fighting.

Taleban forces consolidated their grip on Kabul after storming the presidential palace - the country's seat of government - 24 hours ago.

Ousted President Burhanuddin Rabbani, his prime minister and his military chief are being hunted by the radical Islamic group who branded them "national criminals".

The former president, Mohammed Najibullah, and his brother have already been murdered by the militants.

One-eyed opposition leader Mullah Mohammed Omah and his student fighters had been repulsed from the city twice before, but this time it appeared government forces lost the will to fight.

Panic

Hundreds were killed and many have fled for the protection of the Jabal-us-Seraj base north of Kabul.

They leave a ruined, war-torn city deserted by almost all the aid agencies that were working there until a few days ago.

"There was so much panic in the city, so much tension, that everyone who could, fled," said Azad Singh Toor, an Indian diplomat.

But many of the citizens in Kabul are waiting to see if the Taleban can unite the country under one faction after decades of internal conflict.

And the murder of the last communist ruler of Afghanistan, former president Najibullah, was a grim warning to anyone who wished to oppose their version of Islamic rule.

The "Soviet puppet" and Taleban hate figure was dragged out of the UN compound where he had sought refuge in 1992 and was beaten, shot and hanged in front of the presidential palace.

In Context
The Taleban wanted to make Afghanistan the world's purest Islamic state.

Executions and amputations were introduced as punishments and women were totally excluded from public life.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia recognised the extremist group as the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan in 1997, but most other countries continued to regard President Rabbani as head of state.

Mullah Omar's grip on the country ended after the 11 September attacks on 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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