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Wednesday, 14 November, 2001, 13:51 GMT
Concern over Afghan massacre reports
Northern Alliance fighters view Taleban corpses near Kunduz
Amnesty International has called for restraint
International bodies say they have received reports of revenge killings by Afghan opposition forces sweeping into areas once held by the Taleban.

The United Nations spoke of a mass execution in the conquered city of Mazar-e-Sharif by the Northern Alliance, while the International Committee of the Red Cross reported "hundreds" of deaths in the city, though it did not specify how many, if any, were victims of executions.


Both the Taleban forces and those opposed to them have been responsible for grave abuses including indiscriminate killings of civilians

Amnesty International

However, early reports from Kabul indicate that ethnic Pashtuns - the Taleban's main local source of support - are not being mistreated by the alliance.

Details of apparent massacres and scorched-earth tactics by the retreating Taleban have also emerged.

If reports of atrocities are proven, they will be only the latest in Afghanistan's bloody recent history.

A spokeswoman for the UN in Pakistan, Stephanie Bunker, said that 100 young Taleban fighters were killed by the alliance when they were discovered hiding in a school in Mazar-e-Sharif on Saturday evening.

She confirmed to Reuters news agency that the fighters, whose nationality she did not know, had not been killed in combat.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson
The UN's human rights commissioner has also urged the victors to respect human rights

"Other unconfirmed reports speak of incidents including violence and summary executions," she added.

The Red Cross said its workers in Mazar-e-Sharif were burying bodies in the city but could not say if the corpses belonged to combatants or civilians.

The alliance, which earlier reported killing many Pakistani volunteers among Taleban ranks in Mazar-e-Sharif, insisted that the transition was orderly.

A representative in Uzbekistan, Ibrahim Ghafoori, said the situation in areas cleared of the Taleban was "completely peaceful and secure".

The US President, George W Bush, said America would work with the Northern Alliance to "make sure they respect the human rights of the people that they're liberating" whilst his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, said it was unlikely that the alliance would attack civilians in regions traditionally opposed to the Taleban.

Pashtuns celebrate

Alliance forces are known to have killed at least 11 Taleban or foreign fighters in Kabul, some of whom had opened fire first, and some of the corpses were hung up and mutilated.

But an Associated Press correspondent in the capital said that there was no sign of retribution against Pashtun civilians there by the alliance, whose main support comes from Afghanistan's other ethnic communities.


We haven't heard music for six years - we're crazy about music

Omar, a Pashtun resident of Kabul

On the contrary, resistents of Pashtun districts of the capital have been out celebrating newly restored social freedoms.

In the Karte Nau district, children flew kites, teenagers listened to music and men shaved their beards.

"We haven't heard any music for six years," said Omar, a 20-year-old Pashtun mechanic. "We are crazy about music!"

Devastation

A BBC correspondent in Bamiyan, central Afghanistan, reports that Taleban forces laid the ethnic Hazara city and its surrounding area to waste before retreating, executing hundreds of local men.

Such atrocities have occurred regularly since the Soviet military withdrawal in 1989 left Afghanistan's armed factions to fight each other for power.

Mazar-e-Sharif witnessed two particularly bloody incidents in the late 1990s, first when about 3,000 Taleban fighters were trapped and massacred there, then when the Taleban finally captured the city and unleashed a bloodbath.

The international human rights body Amnesty International has detailed atrocitities by both sides in Afghanistan and called on the Northern Alliance specifically not to repeat them now.

"Both the Taleban forces and those opposed to them have been responsible for grave abuses including indiscriminate killings of civilians and ethnically targeted killings," it said in a recent report.

See also:

12 Nov 01 | Americas
Powers search for Afghan settlement
13 Nov 01 | South Asia
Bamiyan destroyed by Taleban
23 Oct 01 | South Asia
Mazar-e-Sharif's bloody history
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