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Massacre at Mazar-e-Sharif: Carnage in Afghan prison revolt

The Pentagon has confirmed that a revolt by foreign pro-Taleban fighters being held prisoner near the Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif has been brought under control after fighting which, reports say, left "hundreds" dead.
Carnage in Afghan prison revolt

The Pentagon has confirmed that a revolt by foreign pro-Taleban fighters being held prisoner near the Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif has been brought under control after fighting which, reports say, left "hundreds" dead.

The Northern Alliance said earlier that its forces at the Qala-e-Jhangi fortress had quelled the revolt.

One of them committed suicide with a hand grenade, which killed the commanders. Then the other Taliban took advantage of the panic to take up arms and the shooting began

A United States Special Forces soldier at the scene agreed that "hundreds" of prisoners, believed to have links to Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda militant network, were dead.

US planes and troops were used alongside Northern Alliance tanks and rockets to end the uprising which began when one of the foreign prisoners threw a hand grenade, killing his guards.

The BBC's Catherine Davis in Mazar-e-Sharif says some of the other 300 prisoners grabbed guns and began shooting.

- 'All day battle'

"At this point the Northern Alliance has control of the situation," a Pentagon spokesman, Lieutenant-Colonel Dan Stoneking, said in Washington.

One member of a US observation team in the fortress told the BBC he believed one of his colleagues had been killed but in Washington, a spokesman said all US forces appeared to be accounted for

A spokesman for the Northern Alliance said earlier that alliance forces had put down the revolt after "battling all day" with the prisoners.

Reuters news agency, which had a camera crew inside the prison when the fighting started, witnessed US planes dropping bombs on the part of the prison held by the fighters and quoted a US observer at the scene as saying 40 US special forces troops had been deployed.

By the time the crew managed to leap a wall to safety the battle had raged four hours and bullets were still flying.

In other developments:

The Taleban appears to have lost control over the key town of Kunduz to the Northern Alliance

Efforts are under way to complete arrangements for the conference on Afghanistan due to open in Germany on Tuesday

Ousted President Burhanuddin Rabbani says some former Taleban officials could be part of a future, broad-based government, but the movement itself would have no role

Germany's Green Party backs the sending of troops to support US forces in Afghanistan, averting the collapse of the ruling coalition government

Convoys of food aid arrive in Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif, despite being ambushed by bandits en route

The European Union joins Pakistan in calling for the political process in Afghanistan to be speeded up

According to Reuters, the fate of Red Cross officials inside the prison was unclear, while some of the prisoners are thought to have escaped.

The prison is located in a huge mud-walled 19th-century fort, which belongs to Northern Alliance warlord General Abdul Rashid Dostum.

- 'Chechens and Pakistanis'

The al-Qaeda fighters were being held behind its 20-metre ramparts after surrendering during the siege of the northern city of Kunduz on Saturday.

Lieutenant-Colonel Stoneking said the prisoners - mainly Chechens and Pakistanis and estimated to number about 300 - had smuggled weapons into the prison.

He confirmed that US special forces troops had been deployed and General Dostum had sent in 500 of his men to quell the uprising.

An interpreter working inside the prison told Reuters that it had been "total chaos" inside.

Foreign fighters have been frequently beaten or killed when territory has fallen to the alliance in the course of the current war.

But on Sunday, the head of the Northern Alliance, Burhanuddin Rabbani, promised his forces would spare foreigners, and suggested they might be handed over to the United Nations.
 
 

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