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Clash between Taliban and Hizb-e-Islami kills 70 militants in Afghanistan
Hostilities erupt amid reports Hizb-e-Islami to reconcile with Afghan government
By Abdulhadi Hairan
KABUL, Afghanistan- A clash between two militant groups loyal to Taliban and Hizb-e-Islami has resulted in the deaths of at least 70 fighters in the northern Baghlan province.
A resident of the area who asked for anonymity told Central Asia Online that the fighting erupted early March 6 in the Baghlan-e-Markazi district of the province.
“Many families have fled the area because of the fierce fighting between the two groups”, he added.
Colonel Mohammad Amin Mangal, a provincial police official, confirmed the incident and said the fierce fighting was ongoing.
“At least 40 fighters from Hizb-e-Islami and 30 from the Taliban were killed in the clash. They have also captured about 50 fighters and some vehicles and weapons from one another”, he told Central Asia Online by phone.
A local Taliban commander reportedly said that the Hizb-e-Islami fighters were creating problems for the local population, leading the Taliban to strike. However, a provincial official told Central Asia Online that fighters from Hizb-e-Islami were on their way to the provincial centre to reconcile with the government when the Taliban attacked them.
Baghlan is a northern province and increasingly insecure because of the growth of insurgent activities. It was formerly a stronghold of the Hizb-e-Islami. The area where the fighting occurred is 5km from the district centre.
Under Taliban rule, the Taliban and Hizb-e-Islami, led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, were hostile to one another from 1995 until 2001. Later that year, a faction of Hizb-e-Islami joined the new government of President Hamid Karzai. One of its members, Abdul Hadi Arghandiwal, is a minister in the cabinet.
But another faction led by Hekmatyar joined the insurgency and had claimed to be co-operating with the Taliban. Recently, news reports said that representatives of Hekmatyar were in contact with the Afghan government about a possible reconciliation.
In the south of the country, Karzai visited Marjah, the town where thousands of coalition and Afghan troops have concluded their biggest operation this year.
Dawood Ahmadi, spokesman for the provincial governor, told Central Asia Online that the president met with more than 200 elders and discussed upcoming reconstruction programmes with them. The elders assured him of their support and co-operation. Ahmadi added that the commander of the NATO forces accompanied the president.