Afghan Fighting Erupts Over Delayed Power Transfer

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A MILITIA that helped end communist rule in Afghanistan battled its former allies in the new Islamic government yesterday, bombing the presidential palace in the fiercest fighting in more than three months.

The attacks by Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum's militia appeared aimed at ensuring a scheduled transfer of power within Afghanistan's fractious coalition government. Last April, a multiparty Islamic government took over from the Soviet-backed communist government of President Najibullah. But the factions have since been fighting each other, vying for supremacy.

Their battles have caused more destruction in Kabul than during the 14-year war against the communists. They have flattened entire neighborhoods, damaged or destroyed thousands of homes and shops and forced an estimated 500,000 people - about a third of the city's population - to flee.

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Military and diplomatic sources say the latest fighting appeared to be a warning to President Burhanuddin Rabbani to step down as planned, a move that he said this week he would delay. The presidency has rotated among the leaders of various groups. The other nine leaders who comprise the governing Leadership Council insist Mr. Rabbani step aside as scheduled, and General Dostum appears to be on their side. It was not yet clear who among the nine other leaders would succeed Rabbani. India pledges to try Hindu radicals

India's number of dead rose to roughly 600 yesterday as Hindu-Muslim riots continued around the nation for a third day, following the Hindu demolition of a Muslim mosque on Sunday. Legislators in New Delhi forced Parliament to adjourn.

Many Indians stayed at home to comply with a one-day general strike called by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the political party whose leaders are accused of supporting the Hindu radicals who destroyed the mosque in the north Indian city of Ayodhya.

The government has said it will rebuild the mosque, create a fund for families of riot victims, and will put on trial the politicians who backed the religious extremists.

It also has taken control of Uttar Pradesh state, where Ayodhya is located, and announced a ban on fundamentalist groups.

The arrest of the accused politicians on Tuesday heightened tension between Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao's governing Congress Party and the BJP, the leading opposition group.

The government yesterday began arresting a few of the tens of thousands of extremists who demolished the mosque.

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