A RIA Novosti correspondent reports that deputy border affairs minister of the Taliban government mullah Najibullah has claimed that 200 US servicemen have been killed since the start of the anti-terrorist operation, while a further 50 have been taken prisoner. In an interview with the Pakistani paper "News", the Taliban spokesman also said that more than 300 Northern Alliance fighters were "under arrest" in the province of Takhar. According to him, US commandos are among the prisoners. Najibullah also claimed that the Taliban's spirit was still burning strong and that they were only waiting for the signal from their leader mullah Omar to launch a counter-offensive. Meanwhile, the situation in Afghanistan is constantly changing. The Taliban now control only 20% of the country, which is in marked contrast to last Friday when the figure was about 90%. A new development broke on Wednesday when a series of eastern and southern provinces were taken by Pushtun commanders, who then established their authority in Nangarhar, Kunar, Laghman, Uruzgan and Loghar. There have been reports today that another two southern provinces, Paktia and Paktika are under the control of local field commanders and warlords, who have broken off all contacts with the Taliban. This information was broadcast by Radio Afghanistan (formerly Radio Sharia), which is now under the control of the Northern Alliance. According to some reports, similar rebel groups are now operating on the approaches to Kandahar. Local observers have pointed to the fact that the Pushtuns are fighting against the Northern Alliance, while the new leader of Nangarhar, Yunis Khalis, has warned the "northerners" against "attempting to enter the province."
An explosion of household gas occurred in a nine-storeyed apartment building in the city of Shakhty, the Rostov region of Russia. The blast destroyed two storeys of the building