Mass graves found in north Afghanistan

By Tahir Ikram

ISLAMABAD, Nov 17 (Reuters) - The graves of up to 2,000 Taleban militia apparently killed in fighting with an opposition alliance have been found in Northern Afghanistan, an Afghan news service said on Monday.

Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) said that the commander of a northern anti-Taleban alliance, Abdul Rashid Dostum told the Taleban the graves were found near the town of Shibarghan in the opposition-held north of the country.

AIP quoted Taleban spokesman Abdul Wakil as saying Dostum had offered help by allowing the Taleban militia, which controls two thirds of the country, to airlift the bodies for burial.

The mass graves were found in the capital of Jozjan province, which is controlled by Dostum, AIP said.

The dead, buried in 20 graves, were believed to be among the 3,000 Taleban militia taken prisoners by another faction commander, General Abdul Malik, who was briefly in alliance with the Taleban in May this year.

AIP said Dostum had also offered to release 50 Taleban captives in exchange for two important prisoners being held by Taleban.

Ahmed said the Taleban welcomed the offer and would like the help of international relief agencies in bringing the Taleban bodies from Shibarghan, the agency said.

Ahmed said Dostum's offer was a good gesture towards solution of the Afghan conflict through peaceful means. It gave no further details.

Malik and the Taleban had a brief alliance after Malik rebelled against Dostum, drove him to exile in Turkey and invited the Taleban to take control of Mazar-i-Sharif, the opposition stronghold in northern Afghanistan in May.

The alliance with the Taleban broke down and Malik turned his guns on the militia and drove them from Mazar-i-Sharif in May this year.

Dostum returned in September, regrouped and captured three northern provinces of Balkh, Jozjan and Samangan from Malik forces.

Dostum is in a nominal alliance with Malik but aid workers say it is an uneasy coalition.

The Taleban, who say they are on a mission to create the world's purest Islamic state, control much of the country and the capital, Kabul.

Mass Graves found in Mazar

By Zaheeruddin Abdullah
November 17, 1997

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- On the desert plains of northern Afghanistan, Uzbek warriors uncovered mass graves containing the bodies of an estimated 2,000 men believed to have been Taliban fighters.

In a telephone conversation Monday from his headquarters in northern Afghanistan, Rashid Dostum, a powerful ethnic Uzbek warlord, said he has seen the remains of at least 700 men and he has reports of a further 1,300 bodies buried at several sites.

The graves contain the bodies of men killed last May when the Taliban was invited into the northern stronghold of Mazar-e-Sharif by his adversary Malik Pahlawan, Dostum told The Associated Press.

At that time, the Taliban were trying to consolidate their hold on northern Afghanistan.

But before they could, Pahlawan and his Shiite Muslim allies turned their guns on the Taliban. At the end of a fierce 18-hour battle, hundreds of Taliban fighters were killed, trapped in a city they didn't know by heavily armed enemies with rocket launchers, mortars and short-range missiles.

Afterwards, aid groups collected more than 300 bodies from the streets of Mazar-e-Sharif, 180 miles north of Kabul.

Thousands of Taliban fighters were taken prisoner.

Dostum, who fled to Turkey during Pahlawan's takeover of the north, returned home in September. There have been reports of fighting between Dostum's supporters and men loyal to Pahlawan.

Dostum said there were several graves in the vast desert area in his home province of Jozjan, 90 miles east of Mazar-e-Sharif. Scores of bodies were discovered stuffed into nine wells, he said.

``Myself, I have seen one site with 300 bodies and another with 400 bodies,'' Dostum said. ``They were killed by Malik without any trial. They were executed.''

Dostum said he ordered a search after receiving reports from at least four people who claimed to have witnessed mass killings.

The Taliban are opposed by a northern-based alliance that includes Afghanistan's former military chief Ahmed Shah Massood as well Dostum, Shiite Muslims, Tajiks and Ismaili Muslims.

Lately, Dostum has been making overtures to the Taliban. Several weeks ago he released 200 prisoners as a gesture of good will and he allowed Taliban aircraft to fly into his stronghold at Shebergan, 40 miles west of Mazar-e-Sharif, to pick up the bodies.

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