Infighting between two Afghan groups leaves dozens dead

Kunduz (Afghanistan), March 7 (DPA) More than 50 fighters and an unknown number of civilians may have been killed during infighting between two rival insurgents groups in northern Afghanistan, officials said Sunday.

The battle between Taliban militants and loyalists of the Hezbi Islami network, another militant group that has also waged insurgency against the Afghan government and international troops, took place in the Baghlan-e-Markazi district of the northern Baghlan province Saturday, Kabir Andarabi, the provincial police chief said.

“More than 50 fighters, including 35 Hezbi Islami militants, and the rest Taliban, have been killed so far,” Andarabi said, citing intelligence information provided by the Afghan government agents on the ground.

“The fighting is still ongoing in the area,” Amir Gul, the district governor said Sunday.

Gul said the fighting began in the area after a group of Hezbi Islami fighters had decided to surrender to government forces in the area and the Taliban tried to stop them.

However, Gholam Sakhi, a tribal elder in the region said that the two groups began fighting over control of several areas in the district. Both Taliban and Hezbi Islami fighters are active in Baghlan and the neighbouring province of Kunduz.

Relations between Taliban fighters and Hezbi Islami, led by former Afghan prime minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, have been testy. In some areas they jointly carry out attacks against Afghan and NATO targets, while in other regions they operate independently.

The Taliban are the main group leading the Afghan insurgency since the ouster of their regime in late 2001 in a US-led invasion.



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