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Friday, 3 May, 2002, 01:01 GMT 02:01 UK
New Afghan war grave revealed
Taleban prisoners
The graves may contain large numbers of Taleban prisoners
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By Pam O'Toole
BBC Afghanistan analyst
line

The US based human rights group says its teams have discovered a new grave in northern Afghanistan which may contain the remains of Taleban fighters who surrendered to Northern Alliance forces in November and December last year.

The organisation, Physicians for Human Rights, said it made the discovery during several visits to Afghanistan earlier this year.

But it says it only decided to go public recently after Afghanistan's interim government, the United Nations and the United States failed to respond to its calls to secure and protect this and other grave sites to allow detailed investigations in future.

General Abdul Rashid Dostum
The area is under General Dostum's control
The new site is in an area controlled by General Abdul Rashid Dostum and is close to the Sherbarghan prison where many Taleban or al-Qaeda fighters have been imprisoned over recent months.

Physicians for Human Rights visited a number of mass graves in northern Afghanistan. Most dated from a period four or five years ago when Mazar-e-Sharif changed hands several times.

Newly buried

They are alleged to contain large numbers of ethnic Hazaras killed by the Taleban at that time. But the group says it also discovered newly buried remains at two sites - one at an existing mass grave near Mazar-e-Sharif and the other at a newly located site a short distance from Sherbarghan prison.

In both of these sites, it says, the remains of bodies are strewn about the ground after being scavenged by dogs and birds.

The group says that without a full forensic investigation, it is impossible to determine exactly who these people were.

But it says several sources have alleged they include some Taleban who surrendered to the Northern Alliance in November and December last year.

Eyewitnesses

And it maintains that eyewitness reports of activity around the gravesite around that that time tend to support such allegations.

"It's clear that there are bodies at this site that someone does not want the public to see," Susannah Sirkin, Deputy Director of Physicians for Human Rights, said.

"Local residents have been kept away from this location and we have eyewitnesses who said they saw container trucks dumping bodies into this site... all leads us to fear that these graves may contain possibly large numbers of Taleban prisoners," she added.

Physicians for Human Rights is calling on the international community to help Afghanistan's overstretched interim administration to secure and protect such grave sites.

It says such actions are vital to protect future investigations and ensure that vital evidence is not eroded or tampered with.

See also:

04 Feb 02 | South Asia
UN 'averts war in Mazar'
01 May 02 | South Asia
Warlords clash in north Afghanistan
29 Nov 01 | South Asia
Questions grow over Mazar revolt
23 Nov 01 | South Asia
Hundreds of bodies found in Mazar
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