Afghan Prison Violence: Suicidal Uprising or Planned Massacre?

Western media accounts have generally offered sketchy details about last week's bloody prison riot in in Qala-i-Jhangi, a fort on the outskirts of Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan. In most reports, the riot is described as an unprovoked uprising by suicidally fanatical Taliban soldiers. "We tried to treat the prisoners humanely, and they took advantage," said Northern Alliance General Abdul Rashid Dostum, as quoted in the New York Times. According to the Pakistan-based News International, however, Dostum is "known for his ruthlessness towards opponents," and expecting him to tell the truth "is like asking for the moon." According to The Dawn, another newspaper in Pakistan, the prisoners "could have been tired out and made to surrender. But to call in American gunships and fire into men holding rifles and Kalashnikovs gives a clear impression that the aim of the allied high command was the wholesale slaughter of the POWs." Amnesty International has also expressed concern about the violence at Qala-i-Jhangi, and was dismayed at England's rejection of its call for an urgent inquiry.