CIA "hero" may have started prison revolt
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Sat Dec 1 09:35:08 MST 2001
US 'hero' may have triggered Mazar revolt
RASHMEE Z AHMED
TIMES NEWS NETWORK
Times of India
Nov. 29, 2001
LONDON: The United Nations has joined human rights groups in demanding an
urgent inquiry into the carnage at the Qala-i-Jhangi fort near the northern
Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif, even as new information is emerging about
how it started and the two Pakistani Taliban reported to be the last men
alive in the fort, until the violence finally subsided on Wednesday.
Even as the CIA saluted its slain colleague, the first American fatality in
Afghanistan, "American hero" Johnny 'Mike' Spann, who died in the prison
revolt, British journalists in Mazar-i-Sharif have begun reporting that
Spann was less an innocent victim than the one who allegedly provoked the
With allegations of "war crimes" against the US and UK coming in thick and
fast for ignoring the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners of
war, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Commisioner, Mary
Robinson, has echoed Kate Allen, director of the London-based Amnesty
International in calling for an urgent inquiry.
Amnesty has said it is willing to send an observer to Afghanistan to
monitor an inquiry.
On Wednesday night, the BBC's authoritative domestic television programme
Newsnight interviewed Oliver August, correspondent for The Times, London,
in Mazar-i-Sharif, who said that Spann and his CIA colleague, Dave, were
thought to have set off the violence by aggressively interrogating foreign
Taliban prisoners and asking, "Why did you come to Afghanistan?". August
said their questions were answered by one prisoner jumping forward and
announcing, "We're here to kill you".
The Guardian's Mazar-i-Sharif correspondent said the CIA "operatives had
apparently failed on entering the fort to observe the first rule of
espionage: keep a low profile".
The Times's August said Spann subsequently pulled his gun and his CIA
colleague shot three prisoners dead in cold blood before losing control
over the situation.
Spann was then "kicked, beaten and bitten to death," the journalists said,
in an account of the ferocity of the violence that lasted four days,
leaving more than 500 people dead and the fort littered with "bodies,
shrapnel and shell casings".
Meanwhile, graphic reports are appearing of two Pakistani Taliban fighters'
final stand in the fort, alongside comments from the Northern Alliance that
the dead prisoners were the most hardline of Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda
The revelations, which may be a public relations disaster in the making for
the Pakistani establishment, say that the two men, who survived 72 hours of
targeted American bombing and missile strikes, were heard speaking Urdu.
Long after hundreds of their comrades were dead, according to one
newspaper, the pair, dressed in flimsy salwar-kameezes, remained hidden in
a deep basement in the fort and it took several rockets to restore the fort
to a "tomb-like silence".
In the aftermath of the bloodbath at Qala-I-Jhangi, the British press has
focussed on graphic images, including what they are calling the blatant
defiance of the rules of war. One photograph, plastered across several
papers, allegedly shows a Northern Alliance fighter using a long metal
spike to prise out a dead Taliban soldier's gold tooth. The Independent
newspaper sardonically headlined its report, "How our Afghan Allies applied
the Geneva Convention" in an indication that the US-led, UK-backed
coalition may now be doomed to launch urgent rearguard action to quell
public distaste about the conduct of Tony Blair's "just war for a just
Amnesty International has highlighted public concern by demanding an
investigation "into the proportionality of the response by the Northern
Alliance, US and UK forces".
In a statement released here, it said the enquiry "should make urgent
recommendations to ensure that other instances of surrender and holding of
prisoners do not lead to similar disorders and loss of life".
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