Turf Fighting Flares Near Afghan Capital

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From Associated Press

Factional fighting erupted Friday in the hills just west of Kabul, the capital, the latest in a series of Afghan power struggles ahead of a planned national council that will choose a new government.

Mortars flashed from the rocky hillsides and Kalashnikov rifle fire crackled in the valley 25 miles west of the capital in the battle that began early Friday. Gen. Zafar Uddin moved into the area to take control of checkpoints maintained by a local leader who has designs on the governorship of Wardak province, according to Uddin’s fighters and government officials.

At least 100 men loyal to the local leader, who uses the single name Nangialai, mounted a fierce resistance using antitank rockets, mortars and Kalashnikovs, the officials said. By sunset, Uddin’s 500 men had advanced about three miles, capturing two villages and four checkpoints, but they still faced heavy fighting.


Zapto Alokozai, a senior federal police official who visited the region Friday, said in Kabul that six of Uddin’s men were killed and two of Nangialai’s were wounded.

But Uddin said that there were no deaths and that only one of Nangialai’s men was wounded.

Uddin, surveying the battle from a hilltop position with two dozen of his men, said he expected the fighting to drag on because he had little backup. He called Nangialai a former Taliban leader who was using caches of Taliban arms to destabilize the interim government.

Uddin said he had the full backing of the Defense Ministry, and he appealed for more international aid for the government. But Alokozai, the police official, said Uddin is also allied with a former prime minister whom the government accuses of trying to destabilize its regime.

The fighting served as a stark reminder of the task facing interim Prime Minister Hamid Karzai as he seeks to consolidate authority ahead of a loya jirga, or grand council, that will choose a new government in June.

Meanwhile, U.S. Special Forces troops discovered more ammunition caches and captured several suspected Al Qaeda members in southeastern Afghanistan, a U.S. military spokesman said. He refused to give details.