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Sunday, December 13, 1998 Published at 21:04 GMT

World: South Asia

'All we want now is peace'

Taleban fighters celebrating their success in North Afghanistan

By the BBC's William Reeve in Mazar-e-Sharif

A United Nations report puts the death toll from the Taleban capture of Mazar-e-Sharif at 8,000, but nobody will ever know the exact figure.

As an elderly man in an ethnic Hazara part of the north Afghan city put it: "All we want now is peace."

[ image: The UN estimates 8,000 deaths in Mazar]
The UN estimates 8,000 deaths in Mazar
He said he had buried four people killed by the Taleban after they seized Mazar.

Others around him said that in this particular district, about 15 people have been killed.

Most people in Mazar believe a total of between about 500 and 1,000 were killed.

Now, four months after its capture, the city has returned virtually to normal, except for those areas where ethnic Hazaras live.

These parts of Mazar are still largely deserted, although Hazaras still there say they can now get on with their lives without disruption.

[ image:  ]
The Hazaras suffered the most problems when the Taleban seized the city because they belong to the same ethnic group as most members of Hezb-e-Wahdat - the faction that held Mazar until August.

When the Taleban tried to seize the city in May last year Hezb-e-Wahdat pushed them back, but not before many Taleban soldiers had been killed.

Around 2,000 Taleban prisoners were then executed.

In August this year the Taleban made sure they did not suffer a similar fate. Their tactics could be described as brutal.

In the Hazara areas people say the Taleban shot men as they tried to disarm areas.

They say some men were killed when they were pulled from their homes while others were shot in the streets.

Hazaras still in Mazar say some Hazara families who fled are beginning to trickle back to the city from mountains to the south.

Many Hazara families fled to other parts of Afghanistan and to neighbouring countries. Few shops are open yet in Hazara areas but people say they can now practice their Shi'a Muslim faith without hindrance.

Soon after the Taleban arrived, they strongly discouraged anybody from doing so.

Few Hazaras of fighting age can be seen anywhere, many of them still held in prison.

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