North of Kabul, Northern Alliance troops are facing more than 20,000 Taliban warriors plus mercenaries from Chechnya and Saudi Arabia hired by bin Laden, the Tuesday issue of The New York Times quotes sources in the Pentagon as saying. East of Mazar-e-Sharif, near Taluqan, the alliance confronts from 10,000 to 15,000 soldiers from Taliban's 5th and 7th corps. The same number of soldiers from the central corps are stationed north of Kabul. The entire military operation is led by Taliban's spiritual leader mullah Omar, who issues orders from the neighborhood of Kandahar via couriers, radio and a cellular phone. The key element of Taliban's forces is the Arab Brigade hired by bin Laden, which numbers from 500 to 1,000 mercenaries. Previously, Taliban used them to capture Mazar-i-Sharif; now they play the central role at the Northern front. In all, Taliban's troops number from 1,000 to 2,000 Arab militants, who travelled to Afghanistan to undergo training in bin Laden's terrorist camps. Hundreds of Islamic militants and terrorists, all of them trained in bin Laden's camps, are now trying to reach Afghanistan, reports the newspaper. Reportedly, some of them did make it across the Pakistani-Afghan border, but the majority were forced to turn back.
A Russian fighter with call sign Rassvet (Sunrise) destroyed an Abrams tank in the area of Avdiivka, the 15th Separate Guards Motorized Rifle Brigade said