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Home >> World
UPDATED: 13:59, March 01, 2006
Shots fired from Afghan jail after talks break down
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Gunfire was heard yesterday from a prison on the outskirts of Kabul taken over by hundreds of inmates at the weekend, and officials said prisoners had reneged on a deal to resolve the standoff.

"They wanted to attack us; we opened fire," a police officer said on telephone from inside the Pul-i-Charkhi prison. He gave no further information and it was unclear if there had been any casualties, among the prisoners, who officials say have been led by Taliban commanders and a kidnap gang leader.

Reporters heard several bursts of gunfire and saw four United Nations vehicles driving out of the jail about two minutes after the shooting. UN officials have been assisting mediation efforts.

"They have backed away from the agreement," said Sibghatullah Mojadidi, a former president who has headed talks with the prisoners.

"If the talks don't give a result, then force will ultimately be used and we sent a team to pass on that message to them."

If was unclear if this had provoked the fresh unrest.

Earlier, in an agreement with authorities, inmates handed over the bodies of four prisoners killed after rioting broke out at the prison on Saturday, as well as 17 of 30 who were hurt, said Deputy Justice Minister Mohammad Qasim Hashimzai.

As part of the agreement, Hashimzai said preparations were under way to transfer more than 1,300 prisoners from two cell blocks damaged in the riot to a temporary block while repairs were carried out.

Olivier Moeckli, a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross which had offered to monitor the transfer process, said the agreement appeared to have broken down.

Troops backed by tanks and armoured personnel carriers have surrounded the jail on Kabul's eastern outskirts, but numbers appeared to have declined from hundreds to dozens yesterday.

During the siege, prisoners occupied a block housing about 70 women inmates and their children, raising concerns for their safety. Officials said on Monday no hostages were being held and male and female prisoners were back in their respective blocks. They said inmates did not appear to have guns but did have makeshift weapons made from broken furniture.

Authorities sent food to the prisoners on Monday after talks led by Mojadidi, who heads a state-appointed peace commission trying to encourage Taliban insurgents to lay down their arms.

Yesterday, trucks brought mattresses and blankets to replace bedding prisoners burned during the siege, and officials spoke of having achieved a breakthrough to resolve the standoff.

Hashimzai said authorities had promised to restore water and electricity supplies once prisoners moved to the new block.

Nader Nadery of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, which has been assisting negotiations, said riot ringleaders included Timoor Shah, who kidnapped then freed an Italian aid worker last year and is under sentence of death.

Source: China Daily


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