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Battling warlords try civility

A grim human-rights report spurred Afghan warlords to agree to stop targeting civilians.

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The report, compiled by Human Rights Watch and entitled "Paying for the Taliban's Crimes," was a chilling litany of rape and murder. A great portion of the crimes were committed against Pashtuns, targeted presumably because the Taliban were also Pashtun.

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The liberation of Mazar-e Sharif left long-competing warlords to vie for control of the city. Dostum's troops have had control of the region, but security chief Muhammed has wielded the most control in the city itself.

But, in perhaps the most propitious sign this city has seen since the Taliban's retreat, the two strongmen embraced yesterday after each of more than 90 commanders signed an agreement to solve differences through negotiations, not bloodshed, and to stop harming civilians.

"Let's bury the enmity in the graves, just as we have buried thousands," Dostum said yesterday.

The UN has been negotiating with both men's forces to find a formula to cool off the tense situation here. One UN official suggested that they gave Dostum and Muhammed some "incentive" in the form of the report.

Said Nurullah, a spokesman for Dostum, read the grueling report before commanders from the five provinces of Balkh, Samangan, Jowzjan, Sar-i Pol, and Faryab. In many of the reports, soldiers went house to house to steal goods and weapons, and anyone who resisted was killed.

A woman who was identified only by her first initial, Q., said that 20 ethnic Hazara soldiers came to her house in January. They tied up her husband, Jalaluddin, then raped her and her 14-year-old daughter, who was still hospitalized.

In Chamtal, a Pashtun village west of Mazar-e Sharif, a group of 15 of Dostum's soldiers arrived under the pretext of collecting weapons, but took whatever the villagers had of value. "A group of five young men refused to give them their belongings, and they were killed," Nurullah read from the report, which did not mention a date of the alleged crime. "When the mother of one young man jumped to take the gun of the killer of her son, they opened fire and killed her, too."

Muhammed's men, meanwhile, were accused in the report of arriving at villages with two trucks full of weapons, telling local people to take up arms against Dostum – or be killed. Terrorized, the villagers obeyed.

Muhammed said Afghan military officials should find the report embarrassing. "It is very bad that the UN must order us to come and sit together and speak about violations of human rights," he said.

Afghai Sayedee, a Hazara warlord who represents the more important Hazara warlord, Khalili, signed the peace agreement, but said he doubted the report: "I think 50 percent of this report is baseless, and some names in it are incorrect. Maybe it's propaganda against us."

He told his commanders: "The UN wants peace and stability in our homeland, and they are well aware of what is going on here. You must be careful about your deeds and about how you treat civilians – especially Pashtuns."