More than 25 Taliban and Hezb-i-Islam Gulbuddin fighters have been killed during ongoing clashes today in the northern province of Baghlan.
Fighters from the two groups squared off in the district of Baghlan-e-Markazi after the two groups disagreed over control of the region.
“The clash between the Taliban and Hezb-e Islami fighters is on-going in Qaisar Khail, a village 9km north of the district centre,” a police spokesman told Quqnoos. Afghan police have steered clear of the fighting and instead set up a cordon around the area.
The two groups, which are normally allies, came to blows due to a “rivalry on extending power and collecting taxes from agricultural products in the area,” Xinhua reported.
Today’s fighting between the Taliban and the Hezb-i-Islam Gulbuddin is the first reported instance between the two groups. The Taliban, Hezb-i-Islam Gulbuddin, and fighters from allied central Asian terror groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Islamic Jihad Union, and the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Party often operate jointly against Afghan and Coalition forces in the region.
The allied terror groups maintain safe havens in Baghlan and in neighboring Kunduz province. Of the seven districts in Kunduz province, only two are considered under government control; the rest of the districts – Chahara Dara, Dashti Archi, Ali Abab, Khan Abad, and Iman Sahib – are considered contested or under Taliban control, according to a map produced by Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry in the spring of 2009. Two districts in neighboring Baghlan province – Baghlan-i-Jadid and Burka – are under the control of the Taliban [see LWJ report, “Afghan forces and Taliban clash in Kunduz,” and Threat Matrix report, “Afghanistan’s wild-wild North”].
In early February, the Taliban suffered a blow to their leadership in the two northern provinces when Pakistani security forces detained Mullah Mir Mohammed and Mullah Abdul Salam, the shadow governors for Baghlan and Kunduz, during a raid in Faisalabad. The two shadow governors are members of the Taliban’s Quetta Shura, its top leadership council.
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