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Tuesday, 9 April, 2002, 12:39 GMT 13:39 UK
Karzai visits 'scorched' Bamiyan
Hamid Karzai prays with local leader Karim Khalili at Bamiyan
Karzai's visit follows discovery of mass graves at Bamiyan
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By the BBC's Kate Clark
in Bamiyan

Hundreds of people have gathered in the city of Bamiyan in central Afghanistan to welcome the Afghan interim leader, Hamid Karzai, and a group of high-ranking ministers.

Bamiyan and the surrounding area suffered a scorched earth policy in the last year of Taleban rule.

Many civilians were massacred and whole villages burned.

Mr Karzai's visit comes after news that a new mass grave has been earthed in Bamiyan.

Hundreds of people, many of them women, gathered in the open air to welcome the Afghan interim leader.

Warm welcome

This was a significant visit for people in this region, who are mainly ethnic Hazaras, traditionally the most downtrodden group in Afghanistan.

Bamiyan Buddha
Land of the giant Buddhas suffered sectarian horror

Mr Karzai that said everyone should have the same political rights, including the rights to vote and to be represented in government.

And he said that Bamiyan had suffered more and sacrificed more than any part of Afghanistan.

This is one of the few places in the country which feel wholeheartedly liberated since the defeat of the Taleban.

In this area, Taleban rule degenerated into sectarian horror.

Earth policy

They carried out a scorched earth policy, burning houses and killing civilians, merely because they belonged to the same ethnic group as the opposition factions.

A local resident shows bones of a Taleban victim
Many civilians were massacred

Stop in any village and people want to show you where their homes were burned or where their relatives were killed.

Yet there are also ironies: among the government delegation are leaders of armed factions which in earlier years also killed civilians and burned houses in this area, although not on the same scale as the Taleban.

And in the north of Afghanistan, sectarian attacks on Pashtoons are still ongoing, according to the Washington-based group Human Rights Watch.

See also:

07 Apr 02 | South Asia
Mass graves found in Afghanistan
13 Nov 01 | South Asia
Bamiyan destroyed by Taleban
11 Dec 01 | South Asia
Desperation in Bamiyan
24 Jan 02 | South Asia
Hazaras survive on aid
21 Feb 01 | South Asia
Taleban accuse rebels of massacre
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