Kabul Orders Troops to Quell Latest Violence

Posted in Broader Middle East | 08-Apr-04 | Author: Carlotta Gall| Source: The New York Times

KABUL, Afghanistan, April 7 - For the second time in two weeks, President Hamid Karzai is sending newly trained Afghan National Army troops from the capital to quell fighting in outlying regions, this time in northern Afghanistan, government officials said.

Heavy fighting broke out Wednesday as an Uzbek warlord's militia advanced on Maimana, the capital of the northern province of Fariab, forcing the local governor to appeal for support from the central government.

The government ordered a battalion of 750 men to prepare to fly on Thursday to Maimana, said Gen. Mir Jan, a spokesman for the Defense Ministry. A senior government delegation, led by the deputy chief of staff and a presidential adviser, left for the region on Wednesday, he said.

The militia forces loyal to the warlord, Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, are fighting forces loyal to Gen. Hashim Habibi, who recently refused orders from General Dostum and declared his allegiance to the local governor and the central government in Kabul. General Jan said that the militia forces attacked in four different areas, suggesting a coordinated operation.

General Dostum's forces had seized control of several towns in the north of the province and were advancing on Maimana, the local intelligence chief, Homayoun Aini, said in a telephone interview. He said the militia forces had captured Juma Bazaar, a suburb just 12 miles from the center of the provincial capital, and two other districts to the north.

"Fighting is still going on in two areas," he said. "Government soldiers and supporters have fled in disarray." There were no immediate reports of casualties, but government officials said there were bound to be some.

The fighting is a fresh blow for the government of Mr. Karzai, which is trying to make progress in reconstruction and prepare for elections amid continued instability in the country. Taliban and other anti-American militants are continuing an insurgency in southern and eastern Afghanistan, and intermittent factional fighting in the north and west has repeatedly upset the government's efforts.