Dogs feeding on the bodies killed by Taliban

The Frontier Post, Nov.30, 1998

On August 8 and the days that followed, Taliban militiamen and their allies methodically executed between 2000 and 5000 civilians in one of the deadliest mass killings of civilians in two decades of warfare in Afghanistan, according to interviews with witnesses who later fled to Pakistan and reports by international human rights investigators. Taliban militiamen searched house to house for males of fighting age who belonged to the Hazara ethnic minority, says a report in Washington.

Hazaras were gunned down in front of their families or had their throats slit. Others, thrown in to the city's overcrowded jail, were executed by firing squads or crammed in to tractor-trailers, where they sweltered all day in the summer sun -doors shut- until most perished from suffocation or that heavy trucks hauled the bodies to the nearby desert and dumped them in heaps like trash, according to the reports.

Sketchy reports of the slaughter were circulated at the time, but the full extent and the systematic character of the mass murder there have only become known in the months since, as human rights investigators have interviewed survivors who fled to Pakistan and elsewhere.

The killing illustrate how the Afghan civil war has in the past two years turned toward ethnic conflict fed by tribal hatreds and blood revenge.

William Maley, an Australian specialist on Afghansitan, said that the Mazar-e-Sharif killing was "striking in its viciousness" even by Afghan standards. "What we saw in auguest was not civilians caught in the cross-fire between combatants, but an orgy of killing driven by racial and religious prejudice," he said.

On August 8, shock troops arriving in pickup trucks and cars fired automatic weapons at everyone in sight, regardless of ethnicity, in an apparent effort to terrorize a rebellious population in to submission, witnesses said.

"It didn't matter whether they were small children, women, men or old men. They were just shooting at people," Said a Hazara woman now living in Quetta.

Down four broad avenues that radiate from Mazar-e-Sharif Central Square, antiaircraft guns mounted on parked military trucks sprayed heavy bullets as panicked merchants and shoppers broke in to a desperate sprint for safely, according to a Hazara truck driver who watched from an upper floor of a nearby building.

In the bedlam, speeding cars hit some people and raced over the bodies of others felled in the firing. After a few hours, the shooting subsided. Blood stained the walls of shops and residential compounds.

For at least three days, bodies lay where they fell on the orders of the Taliban commander who took charge of the city, witnesses said. It was not until the bodies began to rot and stink in the dry summer heat, threatening disease, that the commander, Manon Niazi, allowed burial of the dead. By then, stray dogs were feeding on the bodies.

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