A three-day bloody uprising by pro-Taliban prisoners at a northern Afghanistan fortress was finally put down early Wednesday, with the US admitting a CIA operative was killed and Arabs accusing the US and the North Alliance of carrying out a massacre against Arab and other pro-Taliban fighters.
Hundreds of bodies littering the complex along with dead horses, charred vehicles and shell casings were the scene left after the operation, according to AFP.
The fort looked every bit the battlefield Wednesday when journalists were allowed in to view the full extent of the carnage, littered by the skeletal remains of jeeps and trucks bombed by US warplanes.
In Washington, the CIA said one of its operatives was killed in the fighting, while five wounded US soldiers have arrived in Germany for treatment, said the agency.
Iraq, meanwhile, claimed the prisoners, some of them believed to be members of alleged terrorist Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network, were "massacred" by US forces and the Northern Alliance, a claim which was instantly denied.
Number one-read columnist in Jordan, Fahd Fanek, and another leading writer for Al Rai daily, Tareq Masarwa, both Christians, charged Wednesday that what happened was a pre-staged holocaust, where the killing was based on ethnic grounds.
“Is it possible that hundreds or thousands of prisoners launch an armed revolt, having had surrendered to save their lives,” said Fanek in his daily column.
“They could have stayed in Kunduz, which the Tajiks and the Uzbeks didn’t dare enter for 14 days.”
“In the light of the development, we can understand why 10 European journalists have been killed, and others expelled: so that the world would not know what is going on there,” he concluded, and Masarwa agreed in his column in the same edition.
Alliance soldiers who since Sunday had traded fierce gunfire with the prisoners, wiped out the last pockets of resistance of the rebellion early Wednesday, a commander said.
"We have subdued the last of those who were resisting this morning," said General Abdul Atif, one of the commanders who led the assault. "In total we killed 450. None wanted to surrender."
Those killed at the Qala-e-Jangi fortress, 10 kilometres (six miles) west of the city of Mazar-i-Sharif, he added, were Pakistanis, Chechens, Arabs and Uzbeks who had surrendered at the weekend to alliance forces in the northern city of Kunduz.
In Islamabad, spokesman for the US-led coalition against terrorism, American Kenton Keith, told reporters there had been a "pitched battle" at the fort and that some Red Cross workers "just got out with their lives".
Keith, answering growing disquiet over the killings, said that as soon as the prisoners on Sunday had captured a cache of weapons from lax alliance soldiers and had begun firing, "they became combatants, they took offensive action".
"They gave no quarter," Keith added, denying those inside had been executed en masse.
"This was not a massacre, it was a pitched battle. To try to make it appear as a massacre does not accord with the facts."
But the Iraqi government said in a statement out of Baghdad it condemned "the massacre of the Taliban prisoners and regards it as a gratuitous crime."
"Iraq calls on the international community to condemn this crime so as to end the voracity of the United States for massacres and killing of Muslim people, including Afghans," the statement said, quoted by the official INA news agency – Albawaba.com
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