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Sunday, 25 August, 2002, 12:32 GMT 13:32 UK
US commander 'unsure of atrocity'
General Tommy Franks with General Akin Zorlu in Kabul
General Franks says it is right to investigate 'the story'
The head of the United States military central command, General Tommy Franks, says he does not know if accounts of atrocities committed by US allies in Afghanistan are true or not.


The right thing to do is for people to go take a look and then we will decide what we find

General Tommy Franks

Afghan commanders of the Northern Alliance are alleged to have killed more than 1,000 Taleban prisoners during fighting in northern Afghanistan in November.

The US has been pressing the Afghan Government of President Hamid Karzai to investigate what happened at Sheberghan, and General Franks said he believed Kabul was launching an inquiry into the allegations.

Reports say as many as 1,000 Taleban soldiers taken prisoner by forces loyal to Northern Alliance commander General Abdul Rashid Dostam are buried near the town.

An initial investigation by the United Nations has confirmed the existence of a mass grave and exhumed the bodies of three men, who it concluded had died of suffocation.

'Policy level issue'

General Franks is in Kabul to visit troops from his central command deployed in Kabul and in south-eastern Afghanistan where they continue to mount operations against suspected remnants of the Taleban and al Qaeda forces.

He said the Karzai government was sending investigators to northern Afghanistan and only when they report their findings would the facts be known.

"Our experience of operating in Afghanistan is... there have been a lot of stories on the streets," he said, "in each case, the right thing to do is for people to go take a look and then we will decide what we find."

Human rights activists say as many as 1,000 Taleban prisoners died when they were loaded into shipping containers to be taken from the city of Kunduz to the prison at Sheberghan.

The BBC's Kylie Morris says the Afghan Government, which includes several senior Northern Alliance figures, has indicated it is prepared to investigate the alleged atrocities.

General Franks was unable to discuss what legal responsibility the US might bear if its allies are found to have committed violations of the Geneva Conventions, describing that as "a policy level issue".


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22 Aug 02 | South Asia
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