Afghanistan: mass grave found with bodies of over 500 soldiers

Afghan authorities are investigating a mass grave believed to contain the bodies of more than 500 soldiers of the Afghan communist regime toppled in 1992, the Interior Ministry said Thursday.

Ministry spokesman Yousuf Stanekzai said an assessment team had been sent to the site of the grave in the eastern province of Paktika - discovered last month after shoes, jackets and uniforms rose to the surface. Stanekzai said the grave is believed to contain the bodies of Afghan soldiers of the communist government of former President Najibullah who were killed after surrendering to mujahedeen fighters.

Another Interior Ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity as he wasn't authorized to speak to media, said the grave contains more than 500 bodies. He didn't know who had found the grave and alerted authorities, the AP reports. Hundreds of thousands of Afghans died during the Soviet occupation and the bitter civil war that followed.

Officials have also reported mass graves in northern Afghanistan from fierce fighting during the war that ousted the Taliban in late 2001. AM

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