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Factional Fighting Leaves 5 Dead in Northern Afghanistan - 2003-09-29

Factional fighting between rival northern Afghan commanders left at least five soldiers dead and two injured Sunday. The latest violence follows repeated international efforts to mediate tensions in the area.

Troops belonging to longtime rival commanders Abdul-Rashid Dostum and Atta Mohammed clashed in northern Afghanistan's Sar-e Pul province, according to an officer serving with General Atta's force.

The two commanders are nominally aligned with the central government, but are considered independent warlords, autonomously ruling the areas occupied by their troops. Their forces frequently engage each other in efforts to take control of Afghanistan's north.

The United Nations and other mediators have repeatedly sought a regional truce, on several occasions mediating meetings between General Dostum, General Atta, and other local commanders.

Fighting Sunday followed a skirmish between the two sides Saturday in nearby Balkh province, in which one of General Dostum's officers was killed.

A spokesman for General Atta says the officer, Mullah Daoud, was killed after one of their own officers was burned to death in his home by the Dostum forces.

General Dostum, considered Afghanistan's top ethnic Uzbek commander, previously sided with the former Soviet Union during their occupation of the country in the 1980s.

Atta Mohammed, from the rival ethnic Tajiks, fought against the Soviets during the same period.

But both later joined the Northern Alliance, fighting alongside other commanders, as well as U.S. forces, to help defeat the country's strict Islamist Taleban regime in 2001.