By: David Rice Re: Praise God! (Again) KADAI HAIDAR KHAN, Afghanistan (ITN) The president'

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By: David Rice Re: Praise God! (Again) KADAI HAIDAR KHAN, Afghanistan (ITN) * The president's soldiers blasted the mountains southwest of Kabul with heavy artillery Sunday as they launched a ground assault on a rival Islamic militia. Behind the front lines, near the village of Kadai Haidar Khan, about 10 miles southwest of Kabul, President Burhanuddin Rabbani's men prepared for battle. With rocket launchers slung over their shoulders and automatic rifles at their feet, the soldiers recited a verse from the Muslim holy book, the Koran, and prayed they would return safely. Then they piled aboard tanks and headed toward the front line about six miles away. Government soldiers are fighting the Taliban, a group made up mostly of former Islamic theology students. "We want to break their front line and push them out," said Abdullah, a Defense Ministry spokesman who uses only one name. The government claimed to have captured several Taliban positions in the mountains, but it could not be independently confirmed. Incoming rockets from Taliban positions several miles away occasionally blasted holes in the road outside Kadai Haidar Khan. The Taliban in recent months captured 10 provinces in the south and east of Afghanistan. However, they encountered little resistance until they faced the president's troops outside Kabul earlier this month. Last week, Rabbani's troops drove the Taliban out of their stronghold at Charasyab, south of the city, and out of rocket range of Kabul. Soldiers from Rabbani's Jamiat-e-Islami control all of Kabul and its suburbs for the first time since warring Islamic factions ousted a communist government in April 1992 and began battling among themselves for the capital. As a result, the city has been quiet. The relentless rocketing of the past year has stopped, though many people fear peace will be brief. "It always begins again. I don't think the fighting is over," said Parlwashah Alim, a teacher at one of the schools that opened Saturday for the first time in three years. ... Bigot? Racist? Fundamentalist? The Republicans want YOU!

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