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WORLD : Afghan Troops Abandon Samarkhel

<i> From Times wire service</i> s

Afghan government forces have abandoned the strategic garrison town of Samarkhel near the eastern city of Jalalabad, allowing it to fall back into the hands of U.S.-armed Muslim rebels, Western diplomatic sources said today.

The report could not be independently confirmed.

The diplomatic sources said Afghan government troops were forced to abandon Samarkhel soon after they captured it on June 7 because it was too vulnerable to strikes by guerrillas occupying adjacent high ground.

The guerrillas have suffered several recent military setbacks and failed to take major Afghan government targets despite the February pullout of all Soviet troops backing the Afghan army.

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