Kabul has five days to surrender

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The Independent Online
Maidan Shahr - Afghanistan's Taliban Islamic movement said yesterday that the country's President, Burhanuddin Rabbani, had five days to surrender the capital or face attack.

"We have warned Rabbani that unless he and his forces withdraw from Kabul and go back to their homes within five days from now, we will attack," a senior Taliban commander, Mullah Mashr, said at Maidan Shahr, south- west of Kabul.

Taliban, which grew out of an Islamic student movement and has made major gains against government forces in western Afghanistan this month, also rejected the idea of peace talks. "This will be solved by military means," Mr Mashr said. He dismissed the efforts of a United Nations peace-maker, Mahmoud Mestiri, who returned to the region this week.

"The United Nations mission failed six months ago," he said. "Now they have no place in Afghanistan."

Factional conflict has ravaged Afghanistan for three years since an assortment of guerrilla groups defeated a Communist government installed by Soviet forces during the Cold War.

The Afghan government told Mr Mestiri on Tuesday it would not talk with Taliban until the group withdrew from recently captured western districts.

Mr Rabbani and his main military commander, Ahmad Shah Masood, have been fortifying Kabul against a Taliban attack for the past three weeks, using tanks and heavy artillery to strengthen frontline positions.

Mr Mestiri, a former Tunisian foreign minister, said that although warlike posturing continued, he was convinced all factions were reconsidering their strategies.

n Islamabad - The Taliban militia said it would release a Russian cargo plane and its seven-member crew in exchange for information on the whereabouts of an estimated 60,000 Afghans who disappeared during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, AP reports. Taliban forced the Ilyushin-76 to land in Kandahar on 3 August.