According to several reports now reaching Western media, mass graves of slaughtered prisoners have been found in the area of Dasht-e-Leili in Afghanistan [forwarded by RAWA]. The massacre was committed by forces under the control of General Abdul Rashid Dostum, the notorious warlord of northern Afghanistan, the pillager of Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif, and valued ally of the United States government.
After Taliban militia and al-Qaeda guerillas had surrendered at Konduz, Dostum’s troops locked prisoners into unventilated freight containers, packing about 100 to 120 in each container, loaded them up on trucks, and began a death convey towards Sheberghan prison. Truck drivers who realized what they had gotten into and tried to punch holes in the containers were savagely beaten by Dostum’s troops. The prisoners locked in the containers slowly died from suffocation and dehydration.
By the time the trucks arrived at Sheberghan prison, many were ominously quiet. Mohammed was the driver of the second truck in line, but he got down from his cab and walked into the prison courtyard as the doors of the lead truck were opened. Of the 200 or so who had been loaded into the sealed container not quite 24 hours before, none had survived. "They opened the doors and the dead bodies spilled out like fish," says Mohammed. "All their clothes were ripped and wet."
Abdul, a 28-year-old pashtun, is one who lived. NEWSWEEK interviewed him in Sheberghan prison. He recalls that his container was packed to the breaking point. After nearly 24 hours without water, Abdul says, the prisoners were so desperate with thirst that they began licking the sweat off each other’s bodies. Some prisoners began to lose their reason and started biting those around them. Abdul’s was one of the containers in the third convoy to Sheberghan: by the time they reached the prison, he says, only 20 to 30 in his container were alive.
For some, the agony in the containers was intensified because they were tied up. This appears to have been a fate reserved for Pakistani–and perhaps other non-Afghan–prisoners. Mahmood, 20, says he surrendered at Konduz along with 1,500 other Pakistanis. All were bound hand and foot either with their own turbans or with strips ripped from their clothing, he says. Then they were packed in container trucks "like cattle," he says. He reckons that about 100 people died in his container.
The drivers remain tormented by what they took part in. "Why weren’t there any United Nations people there to see the dead bodies?" asks one. "Why wasn’t anything being done?" Another driver shook uncontrollably as he spoke with NEWSWEEK.
The massacred prisoners were thrown into mass graves. From information gathered by Physicians for Human Rights and the Red Cross, well over 1,000 prisoners were slaughtered in the Death Convoy to Sheberghan.
Dostum is considered an ally of the United States in Afghanistan’s provisional regime, and at the time of these atrocities, he was actively supported by the United States Special Forces 595 A-team, commanded by Capt. Mark D. Nutsch. There is no evidence that they participated in the massacre, but a lot of evidence that they knew about it and yet did nothing, and continued to work with the butcher Dostum. Despite frequent attempts to deny all knowledge by the Defense Department, the 595 team was at the prison as the truckloads of dead prisoners were arriving, and a separate U.S. intelligence team was screening all incoming prisoners for further interrogation. Before we went in, we knew that Dostum was a butcher. While we were there, our forces had to know what was going on. Yet the US military supported his elevation to power and prestige, and has rewarded his atrocities by turning a blind eye to what he has done.
We are coming up on the first anniversary of the September 11th crime against humanity and I want to hope that we can mark the occasion as a memorial and a beckoning towards healing of the world. But when all the truth comes out about what has happened since then, when we have seen what our government has wrought at home and around the world, I fear that the crimes committed in our names will be more than we can bear.