Qala-I-Jangi, also known as Qalat-e-Jangi (Jangi fortress) is a 19th Persian fortress converted to a prison, and was used as a prison by all Afghani regimes after World War II. Qala-I-Jangi is located outside the Northern Afghani town of Mazar-i-Sharif, 20 km West of Kunduz. After over 20 years of civil war in Afghanistan the building was partially in ruins when the Northern Alliance, backed by USA, turned it to its main prison for Taliban and Al Qaeda captives before being initially sorted and interrogated. Many of the detainees were kept there because they were foreigners, spoke a differed dialect or belonged to the wrong tribe. Others turned themselves in with their weapons hoping to be freed soon.
Rashid Dostum, the former Afghan military head of staff, prior to the Russian invasion to Afghanistan in 1979 and a well known warlord, also used Qala-I-Jangi as his headquarters and ammunition depot.
On 11/24/2001, two of Dostum’s commanders were killed by Chechen prisoners with grenades in two separate incidents. Despite this, security at the prison was not reinforced that day.
On 11/25/2001 morning, three CIA interrogators arrived to Qala-I-Jangi to conduct initial investigation of the prisoners in the compound. These officers questioned the only American captured fighting with the Taliban, John Walker Lindh. About 300 prisoners, who were kept by the forces loyal to General Rashid Dostum for days without basic conditions of water food and toilet, revolted. They quickly overran a large part of Qala-I-Jangi, including an armory, from which they helped themselves to a large store of AK-47, RPG rocket launchers and mortars. Then the rebels closed in on the office where the CIA were working.
The Afghans brought reinforcements: a Russian t-55 tank entered the compound and started firing into the prisoner-controlled area. Several 500-pound guided bombs were dropped by USA air force in an attempt to destroy the armory, which was now serving as a firebase for the prisoners.
At 14:00 a mixed Special Forces team, formed with 9 US Special Forces and 6 British Special Boat Service (marine commando) operatives, arrived and joined the Afghans firing at the prisoners from the northern part of the fort. Starting at 16:00 until nightfall, they directed nine airstrikes against the entrenched prisoners, who continued to put up a fierce resistance. The next day, 11/26/2001, airstrikes included 1 ton bombs aimed to penetrate to the deep cellars of Qala-I-Jangi. The battle of Qala-I-Jangi turned to be a massacre. On 11/29/2009 the cellars where some of the prisoners found refuge were flooded with cold water. Eventually only 86 prisoners survived the bombings. One CIA officer Johnny Micheal “Mike” Spann, 32, was killed along with few Afghan Northern Alliance soldiers. The Northern Alliance assumed full control on Qala-I-Jangi on 12/01/2001.
Afghan soldiers looted the bodies, even extracting gold teeth. At least two wounded prisoners were executed. A number of the dead were found to have been killed with their arms tied in their back. Still most of the detainees were unarmed.
The number of prisoners killed in Qala-I-Jangi varied from 200 up to 700. Qala-I-Jangi revolt was the bloodiest event in operation Absolute Justice. The right number is unknown since most of the prisoners were not identified, sorted, listed or registered.
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