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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Northern Alliance Marches Into Kabul

KyodoKabul residents celebrating the arrival of Northern Alliance fighters to the Afghan capital Tuesday. Men shaved their beards and local radio began playing once-banned music.
KABUL, Afghanistan -- Capping a series of stunning victories, Afghan opposition fighters rolled into Kabul on Tuesday after Taliban troops slipped away under cover of darkness, abandoning the capital without a fight.

Heavily armed Northern Alliance troops roamed the city, hunting Taliban stragglers and their Arab, Pakistani and Chechen allies from Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida movement. At least 11 Pakistanis and Arabs fighting for the Taliban were slain.

U.S. President George W. Bush had urged the opposition to stay out of the capital until a new, broad-based government could be formed to replace the Taliban. But alliance officials said the unexpected Taliban evacuation made it necessary for them to enter the city to maintain public order.

As the sun rose over the Hindu Kush mountains, Kabul residents shouted out congratulations, honked car horns and rang bells on their bicycles. Men shaved off beards -- mandatory under the Taliban -- and the sounds of music returned after having been banned by the Islamic militia.

There were also signs that the Taliban was abandoning other urban centers, possibly to withdraw into the remote southern mountains to wage guerrilla war.

In Kandahar, the southern Taliban stronghold and birthplace of the movement, a resident contacted by telephone said many Taliban figures appeared to have left the city, too, except for uniformed militia police.

People feared anarchy, he said on condition of anonymity, speculating that the Taliban has fled into the southern mountains to mount a guerrilla war.

In a radio address, Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar said he was in Kandahar and urged his followers to organize and resist opposition troops, the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press reported. "This is my order: that you should obey your commander," the agency quoted Omar as saying. He said those who desert the Taliban "would be like a hen and die in some ditch."

Pakistan officials denied rumors that Omar had fled to Pakistan.

Amid fears that the Northern Alliance would seek revenge against the Taliban, a UN spokesman cited reports of summary executions in Mazar-i-Sharif, a northern city that was abandoned by the Taliban on Friday.

"In Mazar, we've had sources that have corroborated that over 100 Taliban troops who were young recruits who were hiding in a school were killed by Northern Alliance forces on Saturday at 6 p.m.," spokeswoman Stephanie Bunker said in Islamabad, Pakistan.

In Kabul, bands of heavily armed Northern Alliance soldiers moved around the city in taxis, trucks and cars, seeking out Arabs, Pakistanis, Chechens and others who had come to Afghanistan to fight with the Taliban.

The International Committee of the Red Cross picked up 11 bodies of Arabs and Pakistanis. Alliance troops were setting up roadblocks on streets where Arabs and others associated with the al-Qaida movement had been living. Three captured Taliban fighters, one with blood on his forehead, sat cross-legged on a blanket on the ground, their heads bowed and their hands tied behind their backs. Bound together, they were led uphill on a city road and into a building.

Alliance soldiers stood guard outside the offices of some international aid organizations. Some, including that of the Red Cross, had been looted. Four Red Cross vehicles were also stolen.

The embassy of Pakistan, a former ally of the Taliban, was also plundered.

Mindful of international concern over its behavior, the alliance was rushing in 3,000 specially-trained security troops to maintain order. The alliance's interior minister, Yunis Qanoni, said the main body of opposition forces would stay out of the city.

Opposition Defense Minister Mohammad Fahim and Foreign Minister Abdullah drove into the city at midday, followed by the special security troops in cars festooned with pictures of their late commander Ahmed Shah Massood, who was killed in September.

Qanoni said there are no plans for the deposed president, Burhanuddin Rabbani, to return to Kabul immediately. Kabul's 1 million people were wary of the alliance because of the bloody infighting that marked the four years of rule by Rabbani and his coalition.

The turmoil paved the way for the southern-based Taliban to capture Kabul in 1996, a move that was hailed by many residents as a step toward stability. However, the Taliban's harsh enforcement of strict Islamic rules alienated many urban dwellers.

Abdullah said at a news conference that the Northern Alliance had invited all the country's factions -- except the Taliban -- to come to Kabul to negotiate a post-Taliban government.

"We invite all Afghan groups to participate, to come to Kabul and to start negotiations and to speed up the negotiations about the future of Afghanistan," Abdullah said.

"We have also invited the United Nations to send their teams in Kabul in order to help us in the peace process," he said.

At the United Nations, officials outlined a vision for a post-Taliban Afghanistan with a two-year transitional government run by Afghans and backed by a multinational security force. The top UN envoy for Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, told the UN Security Council he hoped to start the complex process of bringing the Afghan parties together to form a broad-based government "as early as humanly possible."

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called for Brahimi's deputy, Francesc Vendrell, to be sent to Kabul as soon as security conditions permit, and the United Nations is moving quickly to try to get staff back into the country and to step up delivery of humanitarian aid.

At the heart of Brahimi's plan was a recommendation that Afghans both at home and scattered abroad, especially in refugee camps in neighboring Pakistan and Iran, be put in charge of the transitional government to run the country.

In Kabul, residents responded cautiously to the first signs that the Taliban's rule of their city was at an end. They rode bicycles, stopping to ask each other, "Where are the Taliban?"

As the Taliban forces retreated, they took eight foreign aid workers, including two Americans accused of spreading Christianity in Muslim Afghanistan, witnesses told The Associated Press.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Bush "is very pleased with the progress of the war and with the latest developments."