KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- U.S. warplanes and northern alliance artillery on Monday pounded positions of the Taliban and foreign militants linked to Osama bin Laden at Kunduz, the Taliban's last stronghold in the north. Four international journalists were missing after gunmen took them from a convoy in eastern Afghanistan.
The siege tightened around Kunduz as U.N. and U.S. diplomats tried to quickly arrange a conference of Afghan factions to plan a post-Taliban government -- perhaps as soon as this week. Over the weekend, the northern alliance made a key concession, agreeing to hold the meeting on neutral ground.
Foreign militants -- mostly Arabs, Pakistanis and Chechens -- loyal to bin Laden's al-Qaida terror network were preventing Afghan Taliban fighters from surrendering Kunduz, refugees from the city said.
Alliance troops for the past several days had encircled the city without firing. But on Monday they used two tanks, two artillery pieces and a multiple rocket launcher to fire on Taliban positions in the hills.
American warplanes also struck the city's defenses Monday. U.S. strikes were also reported in the south and east of the country.
Refugees from Kunduz have said up to 300 Taliban fighters were shot -- apparently by their own side -- as they tried to surrender Friday. Reports of other killings on a smaller scale have also emerged in recent days.
One refugee, Dar Zardad, said Taliban in Kunduz killed eight teen-agers after some of the youths laughed at them, and other fighters killed a doctor who was slow to treat wounded Taliban.
Some alliance commanders cast doubt on an earlier reported Taliban offer to surrender if the foreigners' safety was guaranteed. The Taliban are not in a position to talk terms because the Arabs were in effective control of Kunduz, the commanders said.
The four journalists were missing after armed men stopped their convoy of six to eight cars on the road between the capital, Kabul, and the eastern city of Jalalabad. Gunmen opened fire after the journalists were taken from their cars, drivers said.
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