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Alessio Vinci: Prisoner revolt quelled


(CNN) -- Northern Alliance troops, backed up by U.S. and British special forces and aircraft, have managed to all but snuff out a violent rebellion by hundreds of captured Taliban prisoners in a Northern Alliance compound near Mazar-e Sharif in northern Afghanistan.

Correspondent Alessio Vinci was at the scene Wednesday, and described the situation to CNN anchor Daryn Kagan.

VINCI: The battle now over, the grim task of cleaning up the area and retrieving some of the bodies has begun. Red Cross personnel have been collecting hundreds of bodies and body parts scattered throughout the area of the fighting. We have taken a walk through the main courtyard where the main battle took place between the two sides, and it is a horrible scene of death and destruction.

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The battle basically came to an end as the Northern Alliance shot several times at a building, crushing it on top of a handful of Taliban prisoners who had been holing up inside a basement. It's difficult to imagine how the Taliban prisoners managed to sustain for almost three days the intensity of firepower coming from all sides, including from the United States bombing jets.

Red Cross officials are also telling us that bodies will be collected, identified when possible, photographed, and buried in mass graves about 20 kilometers outside of town. They're also telling us that they're trying to complete the cleanup as soon as possible to avoid the spreading of disease.

But there is still a danger... we're told that there is a handful of Taliban prisoners who are still buried alive underneath the rubble, and they could detonate hand grenades as rescue workers approach them and try to get them out of the rubble. And that is a risk, of course, here for both the Red Cross personnel and, of course, for the hundreds of troops and soldiers who are still inside this fortress.

Meanwhile, General Abdul Rashid Dostum has returned to the fortress here which he uses as a residence as well as the headquarters of his troops. He toured the area of the fighting, saying that he believed the uprising was a well-planned plot to kill him and other top Northern Alliance generals. A Taliban leader with whom he had negotiated the surrender of the Taliban last week, who then revolted, said that the prisoners were mostly foreign fighters, and that they had maybe acted on their own.

General Dostum also offered some more details about how the uprising may have begun. He said that not all of the prisoners had been fully searched, and once they arrived here at the fortress, some of them had managed to smuggle and to keep some hand grenades, which then they detonated on Sunday and following the chaos of that event, then seized weapons and started shooting. And then the story went that there was three days of intense fighting between the two sides which left more than 400 Taliban dead and as many as 100 Northern Alliance fighters, as well, dead.

KAGAN: What is the future for these prisoners? Where are they going and how will they be held?

VINCI: All of the prisoners that were brought here are now dead, with the possible exception of those few that I mentioned who may be still alive underneath the rubble. General Dostum has also negotiated a further surrender of as many as 6,000 other prisoners from the area of Konduz, and those prisoners will obviously not be brought back here. And they're also telling us that extreme protective measures will be taken in the future to avoid this kind of incident from repeating again.


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