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Tuesday, 27 November, 2001, 18:29 GMT
Bloodbath at Afghan fort
Qala-e-Jhangi fort
Now fully in the hands of the Northern Alliance
Angus Roxburgh

Dawn broke on Tuesday over the crenellated mud walls of the Qala-e-Jhangi fort - and still, despite a night of heavy bombardment by American warplanes, the Taleban resistance went on.


There are hundreds of bodies in there - bodies and bits of bodies, all over the place

An American cameraman
Using weapons they had seized on Sunday from the Northern Alliance, the foreign fighters were defiant to the end.

Only a tiny number of prisoners were still alive, but they kept up a barrage of rifle fire and mortars, stealing in and out of the shadows to take pot-shots at their alliance captors.

In mid-morning five vehicles rolled up carrying British and American special forces - some of whom were clearly unsettled by the presence of the press.

"Give us some space, that's all we're asking," one American pleaded with an intrusive television crew.

Shooting dead bodies

The British, with faces masked in Palestinian-style cloths, drove up to the fort in white jeeps.

Northern Alliance fighters
The alliance denies it is taking revenge on foreign Taleban

The men scaled the ramparts of the fort, their task to help the Northern Alliance forces in their final assault on the prisoners.

By late afternoon it was all over.

Three loud blasts from a tank apparently killed the last two Taleban - though Northern Alliance soldiers continued to shoot at the bodies strewn in the courtyard as they approached them - just in case any were still alive.

First eyewitnesses told of a terrible scene inside.

An American cameraman said it was unbelievable: "There are hundreds of bodies in there - bodies and bits of bodies, all over the place."

Dying 'as martyrs'

The death toll will be assessed by Red Cross workers when they enter the fort on Wednesday.

They say they will have to be careful, as there could be unexploded ordnance lying around.

Once Northern Alliance soldiers move the bodies to a safe place, the Red Cross will photograph them, try to identify them, and then bury them.

It was thought at first that as many as 500 Taleban soldiers had been captured, but the head of the foreign ministry in northern Afghanistan, Said Nurullah, said he believed there were some 300 - and that all were now dead.

The foreign fighters - from Arab countries, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Germany and Britain - had been promised humane treatment as prisoners of war, but instead chose to die, as they would see it, as martyrs.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Angus Roxburgh
"Every one of the hundreds of Taleban prisoners is dead"
The BBC's Catherine Davies
"For the first time in days, no sign of American planes in the sky overhead"
See also:

27 Nov 01 | South Asia
Taleban prisoners fight to the last
29 Nov 01 | South Asia
Afghan prison revolt ends in carnage
27 Nov 01 | South Asia
In pictures: Taleban prison revolt
26 Nov 01 | South Asia
Pakistan concern over Mazar 'massacre'
25 Nov 01 | South Asia
Rabbani vows to protect foreigners
22 Nov 01 | South Asia
Meeting Taleban's foreign fighters
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