Tue, Oct 14, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Afghan police sent to back warlord rivals' latest truce

AP , MAZAR-I-SHARIF, AFGHANISTAN

Hundreds of police reinforcements poured into the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif yesterday to help keep the peace won in a shaky truce between two feuding warlords.

About 300 police from the capital, Kabul, took up positions in Mazar-i-Sharif, a token force but one that reinforces the government's commitment to stopping the on-again off-again battles between warlords Atta Mohammed and Abdul Rashid Dostum.

Several past agreements between the men -- both ostensibly loyal to the government of President Hamid Karzai -- have crum-bled, and there were indications the most recent truce was under strain.

General Abdul Sabur, a top commander and spokesman for Mohammed's side, said Dostum's men had attacked Mohammed's fighters in the Kohistanat district of Sari Pul province, about 270km southwest of Mazar-i-Sharif.

"Certainly this could harm the peace, and we will defend ourselves when attacked," Sabur said.

He called for an investigation.

Sabur said Dostum's men attacked late Sunday with rockets and heavy machine guns, but there was no word of any casualties. A spokesman for Dostum disputed the account, but said it was possible that some hostilities had broken out.

"I have no information of any fighting. If there is any it is small," said General Syad Noorulla.

It was impossible to independently verify either account.

Dostum and Mohammed agreed to the truce last week after fierce fighting which at one stage came as close as 20km to Mazar-i-Sharif. The UN said the fighting, which started last Wednesday, left "high numbers of casualties."

One of the two sides said the more than 60 died while the other said it was fewer.

A second round of peace negotiations on Saturday extended the truce to Sari Pul and other northern Afghan provinces.

But implementation of the wider truce appeared to be faltering with allegations of fighting in Sari Pul. Numerous other truces between the two forces, which have been feuding for two years, have fallen apart.

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