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'Hundreds killed' after Mazar-e Sharif takeover

By CNN's Alessio Vinci

TERMEZ, Uzbekistan (CNN) -- Northern Alliance fighters have killed as many as 600 people since they seized the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e Sharif on Friday, Western officials in the Uzbek border town of Termez have told CNN.

CNN has not been able to independently confirm this information, but Western officials who have daily contact with personnel in Mazar-e Sharif say that the majority of those killed are Pakistani and Kashmiri fighters as well as family members of Chechen fighters who have sided with the Taliban forces in Afghanistan. Western officials say about 100 men are in custody.

"Today in Mazar we have had several sources who have corroborated that over 100 Taliban troops -- who were young recruits who were hiding in school -- were killed by Northern Alliance forces on Saturday at 6:00 p.m.," said U.N. spokeswoman Stephanie Bunker, speaking at a news conference Tuesday in Islamabad, Pakistan.

She also said the situation in the city remains volatile. "Overall the security situation in Mazar remains somewhat unstable," Bunker said. "As of this morning, we heard reports that along with occasional looting there is also 'punitive action' that is being carried out. We have also heard that fighting is continuing in and around the city."

Family members of Chechen fighters who have sided with Taliban forces have been also targeted, they say. About 100 men are thought to be in custody.

As the alliance continues to gain wide swathes of territory in northern Afghanistan, Western officials are concerned that the anti-Taliban opposition and their sympathizers will commit revenge killings.

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The strategic town of Mazar-e Sharif is particularly vulnerable as it has a bloody history of tribal warfare.

The city has changed hands four times in as many years. Thousands of people were killed after each of the last three takeovers, according to human rights groups.

For their part, alliance commanders say they have ordered most of their troops out of Mazar-e Sharif, leaving behind only 300 men. They say the bulk of the army is outside of the town.

Since the Friday takeover, Northern Alliance Gen. Rashid Dostum has said the people on the street welcomed him and the city has found a renewed sense of freedom.

Dostum, an ethnic Uzbek, ruled Mazar-e Sharif for 10 years, and the city's population is made of up ethnic Uzbeks, Tajiks and Hazaras.

Aid efforts hampered

But the instability in Mazar-e Sharif has slowed down the relief effort coming from neighboring Uzbekistan.

A U.N. team from Uzbekistan was supposed to meet Monday with Northern Alliance forces and aid representatives in the northern Afghan city of Hairaton in a bid to secure the city's river port for the first shipment of aid from Uzbekistan.

But because of security concerns the meeting never took place and the aid shipment was never made.

Four hundred tons of wheat -- 200 tons each on two barges - were supposed to cross the Amu Darya River from Termez to Hairaton.

The officials hope to meet Tuesday and plan to make the shipments Wednesday.

The U.N. aid agencies are also loading a third barge that contains wheat, blankets, boots, and winter jackets.

Andrew Natsios, the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, is visiting Uzbekistan and will be making his way to Termez.

He will look over the Friendship Bridge, which spans the river and remains closed, along with river port facilities.


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