Afghan Rebels Capture Government Stronghold

<i> From Times Wire Services</i>

The Taliban militia captured the stronghold of former government military chief Ahmed Shah Masoud and was pushing into the Panjsher valley, aid workers said today.

They said the guerrillas had captured the town of Jabal os Saraj, about 45 miles north of the Afghan capital, early today after a three-hour battle.

The aid workers said the Taliban fighters were searching for former government leaders in the town, but it appeared most of them had escaped.

Meanwhile, a diplomat said Sunday that the rebels--who dragged a former president from his U.N. safe haven and executed him and his brother--are now ready to work with the United Nations for peace.


The Taliban, however, would not promise to abide by international codes on human rights or women’s rights, U.N. special envoy Norbert Holl said after meeting with the senior leader of the Taliban guerrillas in Kabul, the capital.

The Taliban, formed two years ago by religious students, pressed on Sunday with implementing its version of Islamic law and tried to show that it could accomplish another goal--bringing peace to a society devastated by war.

There were few women on the streets Sunday, most heeding clerics’ calls from loudspeakers atop the city’s mosques to stay home. Those who would venture out were told to wear traditional Islamic clothing, covering themselves head to toe.

Markets were open, and men moved about freely.

Late in the evening, electricity returned to Kabul--a city that has been virtually without power for three years.