Refugees began returning to their homes in northern Afghanistan Monday, within days and sometimes only hours of the retreat of Taleban troops.

Within 24 hours of the Northern Alliance forcing the Taleban out of Talaqan, a city east of Mazar-e-Sharif, and north of Kabul, refugees began to stream back to their homes.

They forded rivers on trucks, jeeps and camels, and traveled over roads that are still covered with land mines, keen to return to the homes they have in some cases not seen in more than a year.

They have been displaced since the Taleban overran Talaqan last September, living in camps in the desert 70 kilometers away, relying on international food aid and sometimes eating boiled grass to survive.

The refugees are returning to Talaqan before the town itself is secure, with reports that armed gangs are still fighting there. Artillery could be heard along these roads when VOA was there on Monday.

The roads are also filled with military vehicles carrying men and artillery to the front lines past Talaqan at Konduz. Thousands of Taleban are reported to be surrounded there following the Northern Alliance military operation, which began with the capture of Mazar-e-Sharif on Friday.

The Northern Alliance says the capture of Kunduz is its next military objective because it will then have secured the north of Afghanistan, which is its power base.