Kabul suffers as mujahedin conflict intensifies

FRESH fighting has broken out in the Afghan capital, Kabul, which has suffered more death and devastation in the three months since the mujahedin takeover than in 14 years of war against the former Communist regime.

The conflict intensified yesterday as Hizbe Islami, led by the radical Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, fired hundreds of rockets into Kabul. The government of President Burhanuddin Rabbani said it had beaten back a renewed attempt by the movement to seize southern areas of the capital, from which it was driven out several weeks ago. Rival Sunni and Shia Muslim groups have also clashed in Kabul.

The week-long fighting, described as the heaviest since the collapse of the Najibullah regime in April, has already claimed nearly 1,000 lives. Heavy shelling and several direct hits forced the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) hospital to suspend operations yesterday, a day after two rockets hit the ICRC pharmacy, destroying all drugs and antibiotics and wiping out supplies for local hospitals. An earlier rocket wrecked the organisation's sterilisation unit.

An ICRC spokesman, Jean-Michel Monod, said many of the wounded were dying because of the destruction of medical facilities. 'Most of the deaths are kids with bullets in the legs or injuries that would be simple to operate on,' he said.

The renewed Hizbe Islami onslaught marks the end, at least for the time being, of attempts to reach agreement between Mr Hekmatyar, a Pathan who wants a radical Islamic regime in Afghanistan, and the coalition government in Kabul, which is dominated by Tadjiks and Uzbeks from the north. Although the Prime Minister, Abdul Sabur Farid, is a senior Hizbe Islami man, he left the country before the latest bombardment began.

Mr Hekmatyar himself has remained outside Kabul, refusing to co-operate with the government until it expels the Uzbek militia of General Abdul Rashid Dostam from the capital. The militia, the most effective fighting force in Afghanistan, precipitated President Najibullah's downfall when it switched sides early this year. Its leaders argue that they have been integrated into the country's military structure, and refuse to withdraw, while the government, fearing that the way would be opened for Hizbe Islami to take over, is reluctant to order a pull-out. Its power to do so is debatable in any case.

Although Hizbe Islami is the best- armed of the mujahedin groups, thanks to more than a decade of American and Pakistani support, neither side has the power to land a knock-out blow. This appears to be the only factor preventing a full-scale ethnic war, which could splinter Afghanistan.

Kabul, however, is caught in the middle. More than half a dozen ceasefires have broken down since April, and large areas of the capital have been laid waste. About a million of the 5 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan and Iran have returned home since April, but many are fleeing again. Yesterday thousands of Kabul's inhabitants were reported to be commandeering donkeys, horse-drawn carts and trucks to escape the fighting. The airport has been closed for nearly a week after Hizbe Islami threatened to shoot down any aircraft attempting to take off or land there.

Kabul's traders weathered 14 years of war, during which the capital was relatively unscathed, but half of them have been driven out in the past three months by fighting, looting and political anarchy. The situation has also restricted aid to a trickle, and deterred Western nations from reopening their embassies.

The former president, Najibullah, meanwhile, remains in the United Nations office where he sought refuge in April, waiting until Afghanistan's new rulers have time to settle his fate.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower