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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Afghan Coup Attempt Kills Dozens

KABUL -- Bloody factional battles raged in two Afghan cities for a third day on Monday, leaving dozens dead and 870 injured in a coup attempt against President Burhanuddin Rabbani.

Rockets, shells and mortar bombs began raining down on the capital Kabul at dawn after an overnight lull in the fighting between forces led by northern warlord General Abdul Rashid Dostum and Rabbani's troops battling for supremacy in Afghanistan.

Plumes of smoke spiralled over the Afghan capital from rocket and artillery fire that battered residential areas of the city center, killing dozens and injuring more than 800 in the worst battles in Kabul for at least six months.

Rabbani's spokesmen said a death toll of 70 was a conservative estimate and the final toll was likely to be much higher because the intensity of the firing was making it hard for families to take the wounded to hospitals.

A year and a half of internecine fighting in Afghanistan since Moslem rebels took power from the Communists has left at least 10,000 people dead, many of them civilians. In Kabul, buildings and infrastructure left unscathed by 14 years of civil war have been devastated.

The major combatants have been troops loyal to President Rabbani and forces aligned with his arch-rival, Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

In a statement released in the Pakistani border city of Peshawar, Rabbani said that Hekmatyar had now joined forces with Dostum to try to oust him.

A senior commander of Dostum's troops in Kabul, General Fauzi, said by telephone Monday that, "We carried out the attack because we wanted to change the political system in Afghanistan."

This development has serious implications indeed for Rabbani, for whom Dostum's support has been crucial.

Dostum, with relatively few men and the handicaps of being an ethnic Uzbek and a former Communist, has few chances to emerge as supreme leader.

But Dostum holds much of northern Afghanistan and is believed to be strong enough to bar anyone he opposes from winning control of the country. It was his eleventh-hour defection to the guerrillas that helped topple President Najibullah in April 1992.