Hundreds of Pakistani, Arab and Chechen prisoners of war were killed last night as US jets launched air strikes to help Northern Alliance forces quell an apparent prison uprising.
Footage from a German television crew showed guards on the walls of the compound firing down into crowds of prisoners below. A US special forces soldier was seen calling in air strikes from a satellite telephone.
There are conflicting reports of U.S. casualties. A Time magazine reporter who was trapped inside the fortress when the fighting began said an American soldier was disarmed and killed by prisoners. U.S. television networks ABC and NBC reported the man was believed to be a CIA operative.
A CIA spokesman said the spy agency — which is reportedly running paramilitary units in Afghanistan made up chiefly of non-uniformed U.S. veterans — declined to comment on whether any of its operatives or contractors had been injured or killed.
Northern alliance officials claimed they had crushed the escape attempt Sunday, but an alliance fighter who was inside this morning said more than 100 prisoners were still resisting in a tower with rocket launchers.
Over a thousand U.S. Marines began moving into southern Afghanistan last night, marking the introduction of conventional ground troops into the seven-week-old war.
The Afghan Islamic Press said the city of Kandahar was under intense US bombardment as troops, tanks and artillery arrived near an airport a few miles to the south.
So far the US has had only a few hundred Special Forces troops inside Afghanistan, working along with an unusually large number of CIA operatives and paramilitary units.
- Tony Cross, correspondent for Radio France International and Free Speech Radio News, in Kabul.