Mazar-i-Sharif Yields 400 to 600 Bodies

From Reuters

The International Committee of the Red Cross said Thursday that between 400 and 600 bodies had been found in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif after its capture by the Northern Alliance.

Spokeswoman Macarena Aguilar could not say whether the dead had been executed or killed in the fighting that preceded the fall of the city Nov. 9.

"I know 400 to 600 bodies have been found and that we have so far buried 300," Aguilar said. "I cannot say how they died."

She was unable to provide the victims' ethnic backgrounds.

The fall of Mazar-i-Sharif, which is near Afghanistan's frontier with Uzbekistan, triggered a whirlwind advance by the Northern Alliance that has seen its forces capture much of the country.

The alliance, which once held just 5% of Afghanistan, turned the tables on the nation's rulers, the Taliban, with the help of massive U.S. airstrikes.

Washington accused the Muslim fundamentalist regime of harboring Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden, whom it blames for the Sept. 11 jet hijackings in which about 4,000 people died in New York, the Pentagon and Pennsylvania.

The rapid gains by the alliance have also brought fears of a repeat of the massacres that have been a hallmark of the impoverished country's civil war.

The Red Cross said in a statement that it had also been visiting some of the 240 prisoners officially being held by the Northern Alliance in Mazar-i-Sharif.

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