Kabul Residents Remember -
Fear Slaughter By Northern Alliance
By Jane Macartney

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Rockets rained from the sky, hospitals ran short of blood, walking in the street was dicing with death. Summary execution, highway robbery and murder were commonplace.
This was life in Kabul under the mujahideen, the holy warriors who defeated the Soviet army -- and residents fear more of the same if their successors who form the Northern Alliance defeat the fundamentalist Taliban and march into town.
U.S. President George W. Bush and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf share those fears. They have said repeatedly that they do not want the Afghan capital to fall into the hands of the Northern Alliance, or United Front.
Elated by the successes they have claimed on the battlefield in the 48 hours since the Friday night capture of northern Mazar-i-Sharif and with the fall of large swathes of the north, opposition Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah was confident.
He told Reuters that the opposition would not rule out entering the city if a political vacuum opened up.
"What they (opposition) did is quite clear to everyone here," said one Kabul resident referring to the bloody struggle for power that erupted with the clash of the two strongest and most ambitious personalities in the mujahideen -- or holy warriors -- who had defeated the Soviets.
No sooner had they emerged victorious than minority ethnic Tajik General Ahmad Shah Masood and Pakistan-backed Gulbuddin Hekmatyar of the majority Pashtun tribe unleashed their rivalry in Kabul.
On a fine August morning in 1992 just after dawn, the fighters of Hekmatyar bombarded the city with 600 rockets before breakfast. Cushioned from fighting throughout the Soviet invasions, Kabul residents had never known such terror.
And it went on. For years.
Alliances shifted, mujahideen groups switched sides and commanders defected and then returned. Law and order disappeared, warlords governed their regions like fiefdoms and bandits made road travel a constant hazard.
A critic could be summarily executed. Unruly fighters looted homes and didn't hesitate to kill those who resisted.
And still the rockets rained down. They stopped only when the Taliban swept into the city in 1996 in a swift advance that took just hours with barely a life lost as Masood retreated to the north.
"We don't want the mistake made again, we don't want history repeated and for Kabul to become the victim of different factions fighting," said Hamid Sidig, an adviser to ex-king Zahir Shah, who has lived in exile in Rome for 40 years.
Kabul residents have not forgotten the mujahideen power struggle.
"What will they do again?" said one resident fearful that the lightning gains made by the opposition in a weekend will bring the Northern Alliance -- a disparate grouping of former friends and old foes forged just a year ago -- back into their city.
Masood is dead, assassinated just two days before suicide airliner attacks demolished the World Trade Center and sliced into the Pentagon on September 11. Hekmatyar lashes out at the Americans from his haven in Iran, but few take him seriously.
But others may have similar ambitions.
In Rome, a senior adviser to the former king warned the Northern Alliance of the possible implications of taking Kabul and urged them to keep a promise not to seize the capital.
"They promised us they would not go into Kabul and we expect them to stick to that promise," Abdul Sattar Sirat, a senior representative of the former king, told Reuters.
"We fear that if they enter Kabul, other powers and factions would also enter from the southern part and so there would be some confrontations," he said.
And that could lead to an action replay of those bloody rocket wars in which an estimated 50,000 Kabul residents were killed -- children as they slept, adults as they strolled in the markets.
And so the Northern Alliance are hated by many.
"About the opposition advances, we think they are terrorists too. They are saying that the Taliban are terrorists," another resident said.
"This is wrong. They are terrorists because they are siding with the Americans."
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