Maulvi Faiz Allah, a senior Taliban commander involved in the fighting in Zabul, said the reinforcements had been deployed in Dai Chopan district to join up to 1000 others who have been fighting in the area for the last eight days.
   
The fresh troops were being led by former Taliban Education Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, Faizullah told journalists. They had been sent from Khost province in the east bordering Pakistan, he said.

No sign of Mulla Umar

The redeployment comes after US special forces piled into a region 300km southwest of Kabul in an attempt to kill or capture Mulla Umar and Mulla Qahar.

Habib Allah, commander of the 503 Division of the Afghan Militia Force, told Aljazeera.net that 80 of his men had deserted on Tuesday due to lack of pay and food.

Our correspondent said that no Taliban leader or fighters had yet been captured despite 400 US special forces parachuting into Sarsang in expectation of capturing the senior leadership.

US forces were '100% sure' they
would capture Mulla Umar on Monday

Reporting from the war zone, Aljazeera’s correspondent said US forces ordered the Afghan army – or Afghan Militia Force (AMF) as they are called locally – to withdraw on Monday night after Taliban communications were intercepted.

Although our correspondent has not learned what information was revealed, the bombing which followed the militia’s withdrawal resulted in the death of at least three women and a greater number of children in Marah.
   
Mop-up operation

Zabul provincial intelligence chief Khalil Hotak said the AMF were now searching the Koh Larzab area of Dai Chopan, where he said Taliban fighters were also believed to be hiding in caves.
   
The battle in Zabul helped make August 2003 the bloodiest month since the Taliban was toppled from power by US air power and Northern Alliance ground forces in late 2001.
   
Afghan officials and commanders say more than 90 Taliban fighters have been killed, most of them in air raids, while the Taliban say its losses are far lower.

The US military has put Taliban losses at 37 since the beginning of fighting in Zabul last week.

In all, the US Defence Department claims 35 American soldiers have been killed in action in Afghanistan, and 162 injured due to hostilities since the Taliban’s government was ousted in November 2001.