Mazar-i-Sharif: The Bloody History of The Noble Tomb

Twice in the past four years, Northern Alliance commander Rashid Dostum has had to flee Mazar-i-Sharif, the city he once ruled. Once he had to bribe his own men to let him out of town before the Taliban arrived. But last Friday Dostum re-entered the city in triumph. It was Mazar's latest--but perhaps not its last--reversal of fortune.

The city's name means "the Noble Tomb." Thousands have died there since 1997. But until then it was untouched by Afghanistan's two decades of war. The city takes its name from the Blue Mosque there, where Ali--Muhammad's son-in-law and the fourth Caliph--is said...

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