UN confirms Taliban massacre of ethnic minority

ISLAMABAD, Sept 11,1998 (AFP) - The United Nations here Friday said Afghanistan's Taliban militia massacred thousands of ethnic-Hazara people when they seized the opposition stronghold of Mazar-i-Sharif last month.

Amnesty International had alleged the Taliban massacred thousands of the minority Hazara comunity in the days following their capture of the northern Afghan city on August 8.

The Taliban rejected the Amnesty report.

Taliban killed 4,000 in ethnic cleansing drive
By Ahmed Rashid in Islamabad
Electronic Telegraph, September 10,1998, Issue 1203

BETWEEN 4,000 and 6,000 Afghan Hazaras - three times more than recent Amnesty International estimates - were massacred by the Taliban when they captured areas of northern Afghanistan last month, according to diplomats.

The envoys described the killings as a deliberate campaign of ethnic cleansing by the Islamic fundamentalist militia. Diplomats, United Nations officials and aid workers say thousands of Hazaras, mostly males, were killed in front of their families in Mazar-i-Sharif, capital of the anti-Taliban alliance in northern Afghanistan, when the Taliban captured the city last month.

A senior diplomat who has interviewed dozens of Hazara families said: "Young men over 16 were brought out of their houses into the streets and had their throats slit in a ritualistic killing. Younger boys had both hands chopped off at the wrist."

An aid worker said Hazara bodies were left in the streets for days, and people trying to escape from the city were shot. The aid worker said: "They were mutilating children and telling them, 'You will never fight us again'."

The Hazaras, a Mongol people who form some 15 per cent of the country's 18 million population, have resisted Taliban offensives for the past four years from their strongholds in the Hindu Kush mountains.

The Hazaras are Shia Muslims, whom the Sunni Taliban loathe. Iran, which is predominantly Shia, has used the massacre issue as a reasons to mobilise 70,000 troops on the Iran-Afghanistan border.

Last week, Amnesty International released a report saying that thousands of Hazaras were killed in Mazar. But aid workers and diplomats who left the city after the Taliban takeover and have met Hazaras who escaped, say the number of dead could be much higher.

The Taliban have rejected the allegations, but refuse to allow aid workers, the UN or foreign journalists to return to Afghanistan. Mazar has been closed to foreigners.

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