Muslims demand inquiry into Afghan 'massacres'


Representatives of more than 50 Islamic countries have asked the UN to investigate the deaths of hundreds of foreign captives in Afghanistan.

The Organisation of the Islamic Conference said its Secretary-General has demanded an inquiry into the alleged massacre in northern Afghanistan in November.

A letter to UN Secretary-General Mr Kofi Annan said Islamic nations are concerned about the deaths of prisoners who surrendered to the Northern Alliance only after assurances they would be well treated and handed over to the UN.

It said that in a written reply to Mr Abdelouahed Belkeziz, Mr Annan noted the United Nations had no presence in Afghanistan at the time of the three-day uprising among prisoners at a fortress near the city of Mazar-e-Sharif.

He said the UN would assist the interim Afghan administration to form an independent human rights council, whose responsibilities would include investigating human rights violations.

But Mr Annan warned the human rights council would not immediately be capable of investigating events as complicated as the prison uprising, the statement said.

Hundreds of captives - most of them non-Afghan Taliban fighters taken prisoner after the fall of Kunduz - died during a three-day uprising at Qalai Janghi fortress near Mazar-e-Sharif.

Mrs Mary Robinson, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and former President of Ireland, has also called for an investigation, suggesting international human rights groups may be able to carry it out.

The US and Britain have dismissed the idea of an inquiry.