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Rival Warlords Clash in Northern Afghanistan


Violent clashes between rival warlords in Northern Afghanistan have killed at least four people and forced hundreds of civilians from their homes. The fighting in the relatively stable North comes as international forces in the South and East continue to fight a growing Taleban insurgency.

Afghan Officials say the fighting in the North started more than week ago in the province of Faryab.

Militant forces linked to rival warlords Abdul Rashid Dostum and Abdul Malik engaged in a series of violent clashes in the region.

The latest fighting occurred on Monday and killed at least one civilian. Local residents say hundreds of villagers have fled the area to escape the violence.

The Afghan national army and police force have reportedly regained control of the situation and are maintaining a tenuous cease-fire.

NATO spokesman Mark Laity says local and national officials, with support from NATO troops in the country, are working to end the crisis.

"Now we're obviously aware that there is a long-running disagreement between the parties involved, so we don't expect to produce a 100 percent solution overnight, but I think this is a very good move towards a more stable situation in that area," he said.

Neither side has disclosed what sparked the violence, but fighting between the two groups is not uncommon.

Both Malik and Dostum are members of Afghanistan's ethnic Uzbek community, and command sizable private armies in the North. Dostum and his men were members of the Northern Alliance that helped drive the Taleban from power in 2001.

Dostum is currently serving as Afghanistan's military chief of staff - one of a number of former warlords now holding senior positions in the government that was formed after last year's elections.

Malik, who was once a key Dostum supporter, recently emerged as one of his chief political rivals.

Meanwhile, adding to the central government's woes, the Taleban insurgency in the South and East appears to be growing.

Monday, suspected Taleban insurgents in Helmand province hanged a 70-year-old women and her son after accusing them of being government spies.

Coalition spokesman Col. Tom Collins says there are also widespread reports that Taleban militants in the eastern province of Ghazni are forcing young men to join the insurgency.

"They have knocked on the doors at night seeking fighting-age males, one from each household, and they [the males] are being pressed into Taleban service," said colonel Collins.

Separately, Collins said, U.S forces killed 12 Taleban fighters during clashes in Nuristan province Tuesday.

Afghanistan is experiencing its bloodiest year since the Taleban was ousted in 2001. More than 1,700 people, mostly militants, have been killed in the surging violence.

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