UN report details Taliban 'killing frenzy'

Estimated total number of killings ranges between 5,000 and 8,000; Pakistanis were involved in massacres
The News International , Nov.6,1998

UNITED NATIONS: A UN report on Thursday gave grisly details of alleged Taliban massacres carried out in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif that may have left up to 8,000 people dead.

The report by UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights on Afghanistan Choong-Hyun Paik provided the most detailed account so far of an August 'killing frenzy' by the students militia directed mainly against the Hazara Shia minority.

The rapporteur based his report to the UN General Assembly on reliable witness accounts. He did not visit the site of the killings because of the security situation. The Taleban, in a response published with the report, denounced the findings as baseless.

Paik also confirmed that 10 Iranian diplomats and an Iranian journalist were killed on the first day of the Taleban capture of the opposition stronghold on August 8. Their bodies, which have since been repatriated, remained in the Iranian consulate for two days before being buried in a mass grave at a girls' high school.

The Taleban allegedly targeted districts inhabited by the Hazara, who had fought against the students militia in May 1997 during their earlier attempt to capture the city. At that time, the opposition forces had carried out gruesome massacres of Taleban forces, according to witness accounts.

The report said that on August 8 and 9, some of the persons who were killed were shot three times, and then had their throats slit. One Hazara man who tried to flee was killed by the Taleban with a bayonet driven through his head, face and eyes, the report said.

"All killings were seen as systematic, planned, and very well organised," the report said. According to the report, approximately 3,000 Hazaras were summarily executed in their homes or in the street in the first six days after the Taleban takeover. The estimated total number of killings so far ranges between 5,000 and 8,000, the report said.

Paik suggested that Pakistanis were involved in the massacres. He said that many Hazara prisoners were taken to the town of Shebergan in metal containers that were left in the sunshine during the day, and moved at dusk. He said: "Most persons thus exposed inside containers suffocated." He said that each container was filled with 110 to 130 prisoners. "Mass killings took place during the first two weeks after the takeover of Mazar-i-Sharif by the Taleban," Paik, of South Korea, affirmed.

The loudspeakers at mosques in the city were used to call on surviving Hazaras to convert to Sunnis, and to attend prayers five times a day unless they wanted to be treated like dogs and shot on the spot. Paik also said that the Taleban prevented the inhabitants from leaving the city, after some 10,000 to 12,000 people fled on the first day of the Taleban occupation.

In one case, a column of people fleeing had reached the desert, where "they were bombed by a Taleban fighter jet, fired on by multiple rocket launchers from within the city, and chased by fast pickup vehicles," the report said. "The road was so packed with cars and people that vehicles drove over the bodies of persons killed during the bombing raids. After that, no movement outside the city was possible during two weeks."

Paik also mentioned alleged Taleban massacres of villagers in the Ghorband Valley. "The pattern of the killings observed showed that men, women and male children were shot, while baby girls were kicked or beaten to death." Paik said that he was "'horrified' by latest reports from Afghanistan, which "indicate a worsening pattern of grave Human Rights violations." "Those found responsible for the grave Human Rights violations committed in 1997 and 1998 should be brought to justice in keeping with international standards of a fair trial," he concluded.

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