Islamists Capture Afghan Capital

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KABUL, Afghanistan: After two days of heavy fighting, Islamic guerillas took Afghanistan's capital city Friday morning with little resistance and quickly hanged a former president. They later set up an interim ruling council and declared Islamic law. Government forces that had been opposing the rebels withdrew north of the Kabul Thursday night, saying they wanted to avoid civilian casualties. Members of the Taliban, a rebel group led by ex-seminary students, stormed the city at about 1 a.m. Friday from several directions. They quickly located former President Najibullah and his brother at a U.N compound, where they had been hiding since losing power four years ago. TIME's Meenakshi Ganguly, reporting from New Delhi, says TIME stringers witnessed Najibullah's bullet-riddled body hanging from a lamppost; the public has gathered at the spectacle. The Taliban, who since 1994 have captured most of the countryside, are in total control of Kabul. Says Ganguly: "People almost welcome them because they're more administrative and organized than the government. At the same time, Afghanistan is not a fundamentalist country and will have to get used to a strict Islamic code." The most surprising aspect of the takeover is the complete disappearance of government forces, who may still control the surrounding mountains. A rift between government factions led by President Burharunuddin Rabbani and Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar had been patched up months ago, and the two controlled the infrastructure left by Najibullah's government. Red Cross officials said hundreds of fighters on both died in intense fighting outside Kabul on Thursday. "More fighting can be expected in the coming days; I don't think Rabbani and Hekmtyar will give in so easily," says Ganguly. -->