- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 2, 2002

KABUL, Afghanistan Fighting raged yesterday between rival warlords in northern Afghanistan, both of them officials of the interim government. A local commander said at least six fighters were killed and 15 were wounded.

The clashes began Tuesday in the towns of Sare Pul and Shulgara, near the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, after fighters loyal to Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum refused to leave town after a military parade Sunday, said Ashraf Nadim, spokesman for rival Gen. Atta Mohammed.

Mr. Nadim said Gen. Dostum's fighters attacked Gen. Atta's men in the two towns. Gen. Dostum and Gen. Atta spoke by radio and by telephone and negotiated a cease-fire in Shulgara, 50 miles south of Mazar-e-Sharif, where the two sides now share control, Mr. Nadim said.

But he said fighting continued yesterday in Sare Pul, 75 miles southwest of Mazar-e-Sharif.

Mr. Nadim said later yesterday that a cease-fire had been negotiated while Gen. Dostum and Gen. Atta met in Mazar-e-Sharif, but hours later, Gen. Atta's commander in Sare Pul, Hayatullah, said he hadn't heard about any cease-fire and that fighting continued. Hayatullah, as do many Afghans, uses only one name.

He said his side suffered six dead and 15 wounded in Sare Pul. He didn't know about casualties among Gen. Dostum's forces, or about the toll of the fighting in Shulgara. Mr. Nadim said earlier that a total of 12 persons were killed or wounded, but he did not have a breakdown.

"We hope that the problem will be solved," Mr. Nadim said by satellite telephone. "God willing, the issue will be resolved soon."

A spokesman for Gen. Dostum said yesterday morning that he could not comment on the fighting, and phones in Gen. Dostum's camp rang unanswered later in the day. A spokesman for interim leader Hamid Karzai also said he could not immediately comment.

Gen. Dostum is the interim government's deputy defense minister and Mr. Karzai's special representative in the north. Gen. Mohammed is the military commander of four northern provinces, appointed by Mr. Karzai's government.

Gen. Dostum, a warlord known for his brutal control of Mazar-e-Sharif, has recently tried to recast himself as a man of peace, trading in his military fatigues for a business suit and trying to secure good relations with Mr. Karzai and former King Mohammed Zahir Shah.

Gen. Atta was one of the top generals in the Northern Alliance, which, with the help of a U.S.-led air campaign, drove the Taliban from power last year.

The two are longtime rivals. Gen. Atta, an ethnic Tajik, has claimed troops of Gen. Dostum, an ethnic Uzbek, are harassing Tajiks in the area. Sporadic fighting between the two sides killed dozens of people in January and February.

The military parades were held across Afghanistan on Sunday to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the end of communist rule in the country. Fighters streamed into Afghanistan's major cities for the parades, and had agreed to leave once the festivities ended.

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