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Friday, May 21, 1999 Published at 19:55 GMT 20:55 UK

World: Middle East

Iran 'plotted Afghan uprising'

The Taleban say they killed eight and arrested 100

By Regional Analyst Pam O'Toole

Afghanistan's Taleban movement has accused Iran of being behind a failed uprising in the Western Afghan city of Herat.

A senior Taleban official, Mullah Amir Khan Muttaqi, told the BBC that 100 people had been arrested and eight ringleaders of the plot killed and their bodies put on display.

However, other reports from the area suggest that the number of people killed and arrested could be higher.

This incident is likely to revive old tensions between the Taleban and Iran, which admits supporting the Afghan opposition, but has always denied arming it.

Taleban playing plot down

The Taleban are playing down the Herat uprising, saying it involved only a small group of people and had no popular support.

Mullah Muttaqi said a group of returned refugees from Iran had been distributing arms in and around Herat with the aim of mounting attacks on key Taleban installations.

The Taleban uncovered their plot and raided a village where they were meeting. Eight conspirators were killed and their bodies were later hung up on display.

Mullah Muttaqi said 100 people, from all ethnic groups, were arrested.

But local reports maintain that the majority of those detained were Shi'ites or ethnic Hazaras.

According to independent sources, local officials say 29 people were killed and up to 400 were arrested during several days of raids and house-to-house searches in and around Herat.

No comment from Iran

Local reports appear to confirm the Taleban's assertion that the planned revolt had little popular support, despite the fact that Taleban rule is far from popular in this region.

Tehran has yet to officially comment on the Taleban allegations, although the Iranian press has recently been denying any Iranian involvement in Herat.

The Taleban's allegations of Iranian involvement, and reports that hundreds of Shi'ites and Hazaras have been rounded up, are likely to revive old tensions between the Taleban and Tehran.

Last autumn the two sides appeared to be on the brink of war after renegade Taleban soldiers killed a group of Iranian diplomats in the Afghan city of Mazar e Sharif.

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