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LOYALISTS GAIN CONTROL OF TALIBAN BASE

Troops loyal to Afghanistan's deposed military chief wrested control of an air base from Taliban fighters Saturday, a victory that puts the former government within striking distance of the capital.

Taliban fighter jets screamed in low over the air field Saturday afternoon, dropping bombs that witnesses said landed near surrounding homes, killing several civilians.

Capturing the Baghram air base, centered in a vast plain 30 miles north of Kabul, was the former government's most significant victory since the Taliban chased its troops out of the capital last month.

Deposed military chief Ahmed Shah Massood's soldiers dug in around the base Saturday.

Fighting overnight between Massood's forces and the Taliban religious army had been heavy, said refugees who arrived in Kabul.

Massood is believed to have at least four fighter jets, although the exact number is unclear. His ally, warlord Gen. Rashid Dostum, also has a fleet of fighter jets at his airport in northern Mazar-e-Sharif.

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