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Thursday, November 5, 1998 Published at 21:35 GMT

World: South Asia

UN condemns 'horrific' massacre

The Taleban control around 90% of the country

A UN investigator has called for those responsible for a massacre in which up to 8,000 were killed in northern Afghanistan to be brought to justice.

The killings occurred when the Taleban took over the city of Mazar-i-Sharif in August.

[ image: The Taleban have yet to gain international recognition]
The Taleban have yet to gain international recognition
Investigator Choong-Hyun Paik said the Taleban carried out ''widespread and indiscriminate shootings'' in a killing frenzy directed mainly at the Hazara Shi'ite minority.

Some victims had their throats slit, or were bayonetted to death, said Mr Paik, a special rapporteur for the UN Human Rights Commission.

The dead included 10 Iranian diplomats and an Iranian journalist, whose disappearance prompted a crisis in relations between Iran and the Taleban.

Mr Paik urged the UN to investigate the human rights violations in Afghanistan, including reports of mass killings, and suggested aerial photographs be taken of reported sites of mass graves.

He said those found responsible for violations should be brought to justice.

'Profoundly disturbing reports'

Outlining the grim details, in his report Mr Paik expressed ''particular shock and dismay'' at the killings that took place in August and September.

"The scale of violations in Afghanistan and suffering of the civilian population warrants the urgent attention of the world community,'' he wrote.

"The special rapporteur is horrified by the latest reports from Afghanistan, which are profoundly disturbing and indicate a worsening pattern of grave human rights violations.

"He would like to reiterate that silence cannot be the strategy of the international community."

The purist Islamist Taleban movement now controls most of Afghanistan but is only recognised as the legitimate government by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

'Baby girls were beaten to death'

Describing the takeover of Mazar-i-Sharif on 8 August, Mr Paik said Taleban forces had shot anyone they saw moving on the streets, as well as people looking out their windows or doorways.

[ image: Women and children were slain in massacre]
Women and children were slain in massacre
"Numerous shopkeepers, beggars and 35 boys selling soft drinks in the street were killed in this manner,'' he added.

He said it was estimated that around 3,000 Hazaras, a Shi'ite ethnic minority which fought against the Sunni Taleban in 1997, were summarily executed, in their homes or in the street, during the first six days after the takeover.

In the Ghorband Valley, more than 1,000 villagers were massacred, he said.

"The pattern of the killings observed showed that men, women and male children were shot, while baby girls were kicked or beaten to death."

The Taleban said Mr Paik's findings were baseless.

UK backs calls for human rights monitoring

Meanwhile, the British Government has strongly supported an initiative by the UN special envoy to Afghanistan to strengthen human rights monitoring in the country.

The proposal follows a disturbing report by Human Rights Watch on the capture of Mazar-i-Sharif.

The international monitoring group called the massacre one of the worst atrocities of Afghanistan's 20-year civil war.

Human Rights Watch also called for an international investigation of the killings.

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