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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Fierce Battle Outside Kabul Yields No Advances

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Afghan rivals fought a daylong battle north of Kabul on Thursday during which the Taliban-held city was bombed and the militia said another intense bid to break through their lines had been repulsed.


As dusk fell, there appeared to have been no substantial change in the front lines in hills running most of the way across a valley 25 to 30 kilometers north of the capital, witnesses said.


But they said heavy exchanges of artillery, rocket and mortar fire were still going on after the forces of a northern alliance launched a pincer movement in their third major attack in nine days on the Taliban positions.


Acting Information Minister Amir Khan Mutaqi said the forces of former government military chief Ahmad Shah Masood had been pushed back from the village of Morad Beg, 13 kilometers north of the city.


Masood attacked Wednesday afternoon in an apparent bid to cut the main road from Kabul and to get behind Taliban lines on the western side of the valley while his ally, Uzbek leader Abdul Rashid Dostum, attacked on the east on Thursday morning.


Reliable sources in Kabul said they took Murad Beg late Wednesday, but Taliban jeeps were driving up the road on Thursday afternoon and witnesses said the main fighting was further north.


Correspondents reported from Masood's lines that Dostum attacked the Taliban in the De Sabz pass on the eastern side of the valley, 30 kilometers north of Kabul at 6 a.m.


Witnesses said they counted around 200 troop reinforcements moving up the eastern side of the valley and at least one multiple rocket launcher up the western side.


They said there was also heavy fighting on the western side of the valley, with the village of Kalakan, 25 kilometers north of Kabul, coming under heavy Taliban fire during the afternoon.


Shortly after Thursday's assault was launched, Dostum bombers struck at Kabul airport, which is used for both military and civilian traffic, in two air raids an hour apart.


They missed the airport on the northeast edge of the city, but two bombs destroyed two houses several kilometers away.


They killed three children and wounded seven people.


"They were having breakfast when the bombs landed," said Khan Coco, a neighbor digging through the remains of a mud-brick house in a desperate search for survivors.


The father of two of the dead children, Abdullah, was in serious condition in the hospital where he worked as a doctor.


Abdullah's son, Hamid, 7, and his daughter, Malina, 14, were killed along with a 7-year-old boy, Matine, in the house next door. Their graves were being dug within an hour of their deaths in line with the Islamic custom of interment before dusk.


The Taliban launched a furious barrage of anti-aircraft fire and a surface-to-air missile at the raiding bombers, but did not hit any.


Mutaqi called the air raids an act of desperation by an alliance frustrated by its inability to break through the Taliban lines north of Kabul, and said there would be a counter-attack.


"I assure Kabulis that they will be spared these attacks. We expect them to end soon. We hope to push them back soon and bring security to the people of Kabul," he said.


He said the northern alliance had suffered heavy casualties in Thursday's assault, but gave no numbers.


"They have been repulsed with heavy losses. We have taken 15 prisoners," Mutaqi said.