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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Taliban Resistance Builds as Foes Unite

KABUL -- Afghanistan's Taliban movement Wednesday rejected an ultimatum by former government forces to abandon Kabul and appeared to push back their foes north of the capital.


Acting information minister Amir Khan Mutaqi said the Taliban had enough forces to defend the city and waved away an ultimatum by former government military chief Ahmad Shah Masood.


The British Broadcasting Corporation quoted Masood, whose forces have pushed the Taliban out of two towns north of the capital, as demanding Tuesday the purist Islamic movement withdraw from the city it captured Sept. 27 or face bloodshed and destruction.


"This type of ultimatum does not have any significance," Mutaqi said.


Masood has swept out of his Panjshir valley stronghold some 80 kilometers north of Kabul, rolling Taliban forces back across the plain north of the capital in the past week.


But travellers said Wednesday the Taliban front line was further north than the previous day. They said the front line appeared to be about five kilometers south of Charikar, one of two towns Masood's forces seized Saturday.


On Tuesday, the Taliban front line was around Qarah Bagh, some 30 kilometers north of Kabul and about 20 kilometers south of Charikar.


The travellers said there appeared to be clashes but no sustained fighting.


Warplanes, presumably Taliban, bombed the militarily-important town of Jabal os-Siraj for a second day Wednesday, narrowly missing a command post from which Masood sometimes operates, witnesses said.


The sound of jets approaching triggered frantic anti-aircraft fire as truck-mounted guns attempted to bring the attackers down. One bomb landed harmlessly near Masood's command post and another damaged a house in the area.


Jabal os-Siraj sits 90 kilometers north of Kabul astride the main highway linking the capital to northern Afghanistan.


Ten kilometers south of Jabal os-Siraj, planes also flew over the town of Charikar, drawing anti-aircraft fire and curses from local residents who had been bombed on the two previous days.


"We had nine persons killed and six wounded here Monday from these bombs and they came again yesterday," said an elderly resident as jet engines screamed in the distance.


Masood's position strengthened Monday when northern Uzbek leader Abdul Rashid Dostum recognized the ousted government of Burhanuddin Rabbani, Masood's political mentor, apparently ranging a solid coalition against the Taliban.


But there was no immediate sign of Dostum's forces entering the battle and no sign of any impending assault on the city, which was calm Wednesday.


Travellers said they saw more than 20 pickup trucks jammed with Taliban fighters heading up the road to the front line with at least two truck-mounted multiple missile launchers and one truck-mounted anti-aircraft gun.


Official Radio Afghanistan said Tuesday hundreds of fresh fighters had arrived in Kabul from the province of Paktia and surrounding areas south of Kabul.