Up to 400 Taliban Killed in Northern Prison

Published November 26th, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

Up to 400 foreign Taliban fighters who staged a bloody uprising at the northern Afghan prison fortress of Qala-e-Jangi have been killed, a local commander with the Northern Alliance told AFP on Monday. 

Commander Shujan Uddin said 300 to 400 prisoners were killed by US bombing and alliance troops on Sunday, leaving only a few resisters holed up in a basement inside the fortress. 

He was speaking as hardcore Taliban prisoners were surrounded and under fire on Monday, in response to the bloody uprising, in which a US adviser was also reported killed. 

Violence continued on Monday at the fort, located some 10 kilometers (six miles) west of the city of Mazar-i-Sharif. 

Pentagon officials confirmed that US warplanes had bombed the fort to quell the revolt but denied reports that a US serviceman had been disarmed and killed. They declined to say if other categories of US personnel were involved in the incident. 

The Northern Alliance said eight of its fighters were killed on Sunday when a wayward US bomb hit one of their tanks. 

Some 500 Northern Alliance troops surrounded the mud structure on Monday, an alliance tank was seen firing on the fort, and mortars and Kalashnikov fire was heard inside. 

The Red Cross director for northern Afghanistan, Olivier Martin, said he had heard mortar fire around the sprawling prison fortress. 

Gunfire was heard around the prison overnight and Northern Alliance officials said the Taliban prisoners, armed with captured weapons, were refusing to give up. 

"We are watching them to prevent them escaping. If they try, we will open fire," said Mohammad Alam, spokesman for Alliance commander Atta Mohammad. "Some among them who tried to leave were bombed." 

Alam said most of the prisoners at Qala-e-Jangi fort were foreigners -- Chechens, Pakistanis and Arabs -- who had surrendered at Kunduz to the east, the Taliban's last redoubt in northern Afghanistan. 

"They were those who surrendered," Alam said. "They then disarmed the guards and the security services." 

Some of the prisoners are believed to be members of the al-Qaeda network of alleged terrorist Osama bin Laden. 

Witnesses on Sunday said hundreds had died in air strikes directed by US and British commandos on the ground. 

Time correspondent Alex Perry said two Americans were initially trapped in the prison and one was disarmed and killed.  

Around 12 US and British special forces later fought alongside Northern Alliance soldiers in a fierce battle with the Taliban troops who had seized part of the prison compound. 

"The Taliban grabbed guns off the Northern Alliance, overpowered them, killed at least 20 and the Northern Alliance lost control of the fort and had to withdraw from the fort," said Perry, whose live description of the action via satellite phone was carried on Time's webpage. 

An interpreter who was near the prison when the uprising occurred said the mainly Arab, Pakistani and Chechen militants disarmed their guards after killing senior alliance commanders with a hand grenade. 

Ulugbek Orgashev said a vicious gunbattle ensued and "a lot of people, perhaps a hundred" were killed. 

"An American adviser was killed during the shootout," he said. 

Perry said he had heard that "probably 300, 400 Taliban" were killed in waves of bombings by US warplanes.  

"The mission by the Americans and Northern Alliance is to kill every single one of them now," he said.  

Explosions could be heard in the distance around Mazar-i-Sharif as night fell on Sunday after more than six hours of fighting and US warplanes buzzed overhead – Afghanistan (AFP)

© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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