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Confusion Surrounds Fighting in Taliban Heartland

Unconfirmed reports of the Northern Alliance seizing the Taliban stronghold are circulating. But there's still no word on the whereabouts of Bin Laden.

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A Northern Alliance Sniper

There is utter confusion regarding who controls what in the Taliban heartland in the south. Though the Taliban have obviously abandoned Kabul, it’s not clear whether they are just lying low before striking back.

There was no independent confirmation of any of the reports.

The Taliban have lost control of their southern stronghold of Kandahar and the city is is "total chaos", Northern Alliance Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah told Iran's state television on Wednesday.

"Now the Taliban have less than 20 percent of the territory of Afghanistan".

But earlier Taliban deputy ambassador Sohail Shaheen said on Wednesday that the militia was regrouping after a tactical withdrawal from major cities and was forming a new plan.

"About Kabul, we wanted to save the lives of the civilians of Kabul," he said, referring to the fall of the capital to the opposition Northern Alliance on Tuesday.

"For the protection of their lives we withdrew from Kabul," Shaheen said.

The Taliban have reportedly thrown up a defensive line around the southern city of Kandahar, stronghold of Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that American special forces were in southern Afghanistan and Kabul, in addition to teams helping target the Taliban in the north.

Taliban-controlled northeastern provinces of Laghman, Logar, Kunar and Nangahar, populated mainly by the majority ethnic Pashtuns, are also reported to have fallen after local people revolted.

But despite the opposition gains and a $5 million price on his head, there was no word on bin Laden, whom President Bush wants, in his words, "dead or alive".

The Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press reported U.S. jets bombing targets around the city of Jalalabad six times during the night and into the morning.

It said later that local mujahideen fighters had wrested Jalalabad from the Taliban.

Jalalabad is surrounded by training camps for Islamic guerrillas of bin Laden's al Qaeda network.

As Taliban rule crumbled, its leader Mullah Omar urged his scattered fighters to stand and fight.

"I order you to completely obey your commanders and not to go hither and thither," the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press quoted him as saying to his troops in an address in the Pashto language over their wireless sets.

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