"CNN PRESENTS" (Attn. Producer) CNN Atlanta, Georgia

Dear Producer

I watched your presentation (August 3) about the "prison uprising" at Qila Jhangwi in northern Afghanistan during the last week of November 2001.
Your presentation seems to have failed to prove its intent and went entirely against its thesis. Your thesis was as follows:
1. General Dostum gave safe passage to Al-Qaida and Taliban prisoners.
2. The prisoners, while imprisoned in the fort, rose up in armed rebellion and had to be suppressed by force.
3. The tragedy of the whole incident was that a CIA officer named Spann was killed by the prisoners and the anticlimax was that another American, John Walker Lindh, was found among the Taliban prisoners.

I watched carefully and there can be little doubt that the thesis was not proven and in fact the program backfired leaving behind serious issues which need to be investigated.

The program showed as follows:

1. The prisoners, on promise of safe passage, were disarmed and taken to Qila Jhangvi.
2. We are shown the prisoners being tied up and lined up.
3. We are told that the prisoners tried to snatch weapons from their nothern alliance captors (not on camera).
4. We watch a CIA officer saying that he has killed 5 prisoners with his hand gun and that the other CIA man, Spann, too had killed three or more who went for him clawing at his skin (obviously unarmed prisoners).
5. We are told that the prisoners had found guns in the fort and were fighting back.
6. U.S. special forces are seen arriving and they order air strikes on the prisoners in the fort.
7. The U.S. air strikes hit repeatedly. The next day MASSIVE BOMBING of the prison is shown. The camera team man reporting the bombing finds the huge explosion from the 2000 pounders "beautiful."
8. After the air strikes, the northern alliance (Dostum's men) are sent in to kill the few prisoners who survived the bombing.
9. The Dostum men are shown shooting into the fort as if carrying out a turkey shoot.
10. One Taliban got out of the fort: we see him dimly in the background before he is killed. We are told that he had come out shouting "Allahu Akbar."
11. The prisoners, about 400, are all killed. Their bodies litter the ground. A few survive in the tunnels under the fort and are flushed out by pouring gasoline in and setting it alight. Miraculously a handful still survive and the channels they are hiding in are flooded with cold water. Almost dead, they surrender. Among them is the "American Taliban." He is still "high" from his horrendous experience and talks about his desire to embrace martyrdom.

Quite obviously a massacre of prisoners of war was carried out, ruthlessly and systematically. Even if we concede that a few Taliban grabbed the guns of their captors, that could have happened out of desperation as the prisoners saw that they were to be killed. {At the end of the program you did accept the fact that the intent to kill the prisoners was implied in the words of the CIA officers.}

In such a situation, the northern alliance forces could have just waited outside the fort and the starving and cold Taliban would have soon had to surrender. The BOMBING from the air of a prison was surely meant to decimate the prisoners. The turkey shoot after the bombing was quite clearly meant to ensure that no one survived.

You showed a certain naivete in trying to imply that General Dostum meant well by his offer of safe passage to the prisoners. It was a trick meant to disarm the prisoners and to ensure their destruction. At the conclusion you try to make a folk hero out of Dostum whose good intentions did not work out, although Dostum has shown throughout the conflict that he is not to be trusted and his troops are rapists and murderers. {See the Washington Post, of June 16, 2002, p.A23, for the gang rape of an international aid worker in the area under Dostum's control. The local authorities refused to take action against the seven men who gang raped this woman.}

Obviously the message of your report is that the only thing bad which happened during that massacre was the death of a CIA officer.


Kaukab Siddique, Ph.D

2002-08-04 Sun 13:01ct