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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Taliban Offers Amnesty to Afghan Opposition Forces

KABUL, Afghanistan - The leader of Afghanistan's ruling Taliban militia offered amnesty on Wednesday to rival fighters, saying their lives and property would be protected if they put down their arms.

Mullah Mohammed Omar's statement comes as Taliban fighters have scored major victories in the past week, severing a key opposition supply line to Tajikistan and forcing opposition fighters from two of the four provinces that they control.

It is widely believed that the Taliban religious army, which controls about 90 percent of Afghanistan, will try to defeat the opposition before winter, when mountain fighting becomes difficult.

"We are very close to the final victory,'' Omar said in a statement addressed to people living in opposition areas.

There were reports of sporadic fighting in several areas on Wednesday and an opposition spokesman, Usttad Atta Mohammed, said that Taliban jets carried out airstrikes. Mohammed spoke with The Associated Press in Islamabad from an opposition-controlled area in Afghanistan.

Instructions had been issued to Taliban fighters to "protect the lives and property of those people who part ways with the rivals and give up rebellion,'' he said.

But he added that "we are obliged to deal in accordance with Islamic law with all those who choose rebellion.''

He gave no further details.

The Taliban have vowed not to compromise with the opposition.

Opposition fighters, led by Ahmed Shah Massood, are largely concentrated in the ethnic Tajik-dominated Salang district and Panjshir Valley, two strategic areas surrounded by high mountains.

Taliban fighters appear to be trying to encircle those fighters.

Fighting is expected to be fierce if Taliban militiamen launch an assault on Massood's well-entrenched forces.