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Thursday, 29 November, 2001, 20:44 GMT
UK rules out prison revolt inquiry
Red Cross worker with stretcher
The UN has called for an inquiry into the events
Foreign Office minister Peter Hain has ruled out an investigation into the deaths of hundreds of Taleban prisoners during a revolt near Mazar-e-Sharif.

Fighting at the Qala-e-Jhangi fort ended on Wednesday, and the first journalists to enter the premises described a scene of carnage, with dead bodies littering the ground.


A word of caution on this: there are many reports but we do not know the truth of these reports one way or another

Tony Blair

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has urged caution before making judgements on what happened inside the prison.

But Mr Hain ruled out a British investigation into the events, telling BBC Radio Five Live that "nasty things happen in warfare".

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, told journalists during a visit to Helsinki that there should be an inquiry into events at the prison.

Jose Diaz, a spokesman for the High Commissioner, told BBC News Online that, although the situation had been complex, "there are a lot of unanswered questions".

Mr Diaz referred specifically to reports that in one part of the fort, bodies of prisoners had their hands tied behind their backs.

'Murderous spree'

Rejecting calls for a separate British inquiry, Mr Hain said: "These things do happen in war.

"Just remember that these people in prison there were al-Qaeda fighters of the most extreme and militant kind who got hold of weapons and sought to fight their way out, killing everybody in front of them.


If they (the Taleban prisoners) had gone out on a murderous spree, goodness knows what horrors could have resulted

Peter Hain, foreign office minister
"Inevitably, there was a reaction and attempt to control that - because if they had gone out on a murderous spree, goodness knows what horrors could have resulted.

"So we don't see any need for an inquiry.

He added: "Nasty things happen in warfare, they always have done."

Mr Hain said what was important was that the Allies stuck to their objective of "destroying the capabilities of Bin Laden and his gang" for inflicting terrorist atrocities of the kind seen in the United States.

The Northern Alliance commander in the Mazar-e-Sharif area, General Abdul Rashid Dostum, has denied that Taleban prisoners were tied up.

Caution

The London-based human rights group, Amnesty International, has already called for an investigation into what triggered the incident.

The prime minister, speaking after his summit with the French President Jacques Chirac, said it was too early to know exactly what happened at the prison.

"We've made it quite clear that we believe people should be treated properly as prisoners," said Mr Blair.

"But a word of caution on this: there are many reports but we do not know the truth of these reports one way or another.

"I think it is important that we have the facts before we make the judgements."

See also:

28 Nov 01 | South Asia
Carnage after Taleban revolt
29 Nov 01 | South Asia
Fort revolt: What really happened?
27 Nov 01 | South Asia
In pictures: Taleban prison revolt
22 Nov 01 | South Asia
Meeting Taleban's foreign fighters
27 Nov 01 | South Asia
Bloodbath at Afghan fort
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