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Sunday, 28 January, 2001, 01:53 GMT
Taleban bar press from 'massacre site'
The Taleban in Afghanistan
The Taleban are accused of massacring civilians
By Kate Clark in Kabul

The Taleban authorities in Afghanistan have banned journalists from going to Yakawlang in the centre of the country.

The United Nations and human rights groups say Taleban soldiers massacred civilians there earlier this month.

The Taleban had previously said journalists could visit the site.

But now, their supreme leader, Mullah Omar, has accused reporters of bias and said they will not be allowed to go.

Under Taleban regulations, journalists have to get permission to travel outside Kabul.

We had asked to go to Yakawlang to check reports that Taleban soldiers had killed local men, including teenagers and the elderly, in revenge for Taleban losses suffered during fighting with the opposition.

'Hostile' journalists

In an interview with the BBC, the Taleban supreme leader, Mullah Omar, accused journalists and human rights groups of concentrating on allegations that the Taleban had carried out massacres while ignoring the mass killing of Taleban prisoners of war by the opposition almost four years ago.

UN plane in Afghanistan
The UN recently imposed new sanctions on the Taleban for not handing over Osama Bin Laden
He asked why reporters did not go to Kandahar where the Taleban dead were reburied, instead of going to Yakawlang for what he called gossip and corruption.

Mullah Omar said journalists were biased and hostile and there was no evidence of a civilian massacre.

But to the rest of the world, the travel ban will only make it seem that the Taleban have secrets in Yakawlang they want to try to keep hidden.

'Massacre' of Taleban

The 1997 mass killing of Taleban prisoners of war in Mazar-e-Sharif and Dashti Laili referred to by Mullah Omar was actually one of the most widely reported massacres.

Journalists were able to see the graves after General Malik's rival, General Dostum, took over the area.

He allowed access to the site in order to discredit his predecessor.

The Taleban were accused of killing thousands of civilians in revenge when they eventually captured Mazur a year later.

Alleged civilian killings

Since then, there have been several similar allegations that Taleban forces have killed unarmed civilians in Bamiyan, Samangan and now Yakawlang.

Each time after the opposition captured territory from the Taleban and then lost it.

These areas have remained under Taleban control, making independent investigation much more difficult.

A few days ago, the opposition made new allegations against the Taleban.

They said they had uncovered fresh mass graves in the Khojah Ghar district of Takhar province in north-eastern Afghanistan.

They said they had found about 70 bodies, including those of women and children.

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See also:

19 Jan 01 | South Asia
UN imposes new sanctions on Taleban
12 Dec 00 | South Asia
UN staff leaving Afghanistan
08 Dec 00 | South Asia
Pakistan attacks Afghan sanctions
07 Dec 00 | South Asia
US and Russia unite against Taleban
20 Dec 00 | South Asia
Analysis: Who are the Taleban?
20 Dec 00 | South Asia
Who is Osama bin Laden?
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