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Mazer-e-Sharif workers report deaths, looting

Hundreds of people died and tons of relief supplies were looted as the Northern Alliance wrested control of Mazar-e-Sharif from the Taliban, aid groups reported Tuesday while their workers went around the city burying the dead.

The International Red Cross said the bodies were buried "for reasons of health and of dignity" and would be placed in marked graves. It did not say whether the dead were civilians or fighters.

A Northern Alliance official denied the reports of slayings and instability.

"It is completely, completely peaceful and secure," said Ibrahim Ghafoori, a representative of the Northern Alliance in Uzbekistan. "There is no danger, no disputes, no friction, nothing."

U.N. spokeswoman Stephanie Bunker said the agency had corroborated reports that "over 100 Taliban troops who were young recruits hiding in a school were killed by Northern Alliance forces on Saturday after 6 p.m." It was not clear whether the Taliban died fighting or if they were captured and executed.

Bunker said "other unconfirmed reports speak of incidents including violence and summary executions." Bunker, who spoke in Islamabad, Pakistan, said fighting was continuing in and around the northern city.

In Geneva, Antonella Notari, a spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, said Tuesday that the number of dead in Mazar-e-Sharif "is in the hundreds."

In Washington, President Bush said he and visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin had discussed the situation in Mazar-e-Sharif and other cities taken by the Northern Alliance.

"We will continue to work with the Northern Alliance commanders to make sure they respect the human rights of the people that they're liberating," Bush said.

Putin demanded proof of wrongdoing by the alliance and told the media to "pay attention" to the Taliban instead. "We tend to forget now the destruction of the cultural heritage of humankind," he said. "We tend to forget now the atrocities by Taliban."

Christiane Berthiaume, spokeswoman for the World Food Program in Geneva, said that "in Mazar there is a lot of pillaging as well as civilian kidnappings, armed men out of control and fighting in the streets."

She said 89 tons of food in U.N. warehouses was stolen over the weekend. A 10-truck convoy carrying relief supplies, including tents and water pumps, was seized.

_ Information from the Washington Post was used in this report.

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