Mass Slaughter Of the Taliban's Foreign Jihadists

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One of the first western reporters to reach Mazar-i-Sharif, I was ushered into the home of Ustad Atta Mohammed, the Northern Alliance commander who--along with warlords Rashid Dostum and Haji Mohammed Mohaqiq--had taken the city a few days before. An ethnic Tajik, Atta, 37, is a bearded giant given to joking and easy small talk. He invited me to sit on his carpet and share a meal of qabeli, the Afghan national dish of rice, raisins, mutton, carrots and onions. In the past week, he has established himself as the unofficial mayor of Mazar, presiding over meetings of tribal elders and hearing pleas for increased security. He and his men have the city, but as they consolidated control, they massacred 100 Pakistani Taliban fighters who were trying to surrender--and then watched as 12 of their own mullahs, on a peace mission to the Taliban resisters, were executed while clutching their holy texts. In retaliation, the Alliance soldiers then slaughtered the rest of the resisters.

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As Atta and his security chief, Wasiq, described how Mazar had been taken, it became clear that this fighting had finished only hours before I arrived. They told me about Sultan Raziya, a girls' school in the southeast part of the city, where Pakistani "tourists," as they called them, had held out until late Tuesday. Reports of a massacre there had filtered out of Mazar the weekend before. "Many people died there," said Wasiq. "We had to kill many." I asked if I could visit the site. Wasiq smiled and said I would have to get permission from Atta.

As we approached Sultan Raziya the next morning, a Red Cross team was sifting the rubble and transferring bodies and pieces of bodies onto a flatbed tractor trailer. The stench of death hung across the ruins. The team concentrated on intact bodies that could be lifted by the arms and legs. There had been more than 300 of them so far. With Atta's permission, I was given free rein to climb through the rubble, stepping past corpse after corpse, many of them dismembered. Elsewhere, fire had reduced everything--furniture, clothing, people--to ash.

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