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Thursday, 14 June, 2001, 12:03 GMT 13:03 UK
Taleban 'destroyed captured town'
Yakawlang lies on the main road north from Kabul
By BBC Afghanistan correspondent Kate Clark

The Afghan opposition has accused the Taleban of burning homes and shops after it recaptured the town of Yakawlang in central Afghanistan on Sunday.

Opposition fighters
Opposition forces say the Taleban burnt homes
There were already reports that Taleban aerial bombardment had destroyed the town's hospital and an aid agency office.

The Taleban have banned journalists from visiting the area and independent verification has not been possible.

But the campaigning group, Human Rights Watch, has said it is alarmed by the reports and has called on the Taleban to allow an investigation.

Changing hands

Taleban forces entered Yakawlang at midday on Sunday.

It was the sixth time the district had changed hands since the start of the year and most of the 60,000 people living there had already fled.

Taleban truck and fighter
The town has changed hands several times
The Taleban news agency said its forces carried out a mopping up operation, killing 50 of what it called the enemy and arresting 60 others.

It is then that the alleged burning of homes and shops took place.

A spokesman for the opposition militia, Hizbe-Wahdat, said they could see the smoke of burning buildings from their vantage point on nearby hills.

Killings charge

There have been allegations that the Taleban have burned houses before in retaliation for opposition military activity, most famously in the Shomali plains, north of Kabul, and in Khwaja Gar, in the far north of Afghanistan.

There are also accusations of earlier Taleban human rights abuses in Yakawlang.

The UN and Human Rights Watch have both produced reports detailing the killing of 170 civilians when the Taleban were in control of the town in January.

That has been denied by the Taleban as enemy propaganda.

They have countered with a recent claim that they found the bodies of 13 Taleban prisoners of war, who they say were killed after being captured by Hizbe-Wahdat.

Pulled out

A local news agency has quoted the Taleban as saying they have now pulled their forces out of Yakawlang town - but it said the Taleban still considered the district a war zone.

Human Rights Watch says the UN must press the Taleban to protect civilian lives and property and to hold individual commanders accountable for any abuses.

During the last 20 years of war in Afghanistan, there have been accusations of war crimes against every faction - Communists, Mujahedin and the Taleban.

There is a growing feeling among human rights workers that producing reports describing abuses has not had any impact.

They say those who are alleged to have carried out war crimes should be named and attempts made to bring them to justice.

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See also:

05 Jun 01 | South Asia
Afghan fighting flares up
28 Jun 00 | South Asia
Annan: Kabul's grim future
03 Aug 98 | South Asia
Analysis: Who are the Taleban?
21 Nov 00 | South Asia
Afghanistan's military stalemate
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