NEW DELHI, India -- Soviet troops poured inflammable fluid into an underground irrigation channel and burned to death 105 Afghan civilians hiding inside, diplomats said Tuesday.
Eleven children were among the dead in the flaming massacre Sept. 13 in Padkhwab-e-Shana village, in Logar province, 36 miles south of the Afghan capital of Kabul, the diplomats said.
The diplomats based their report on a investigation by an American, Michael Barry, who made a clandestine journey to the village to investigate the incident.
The Soviet-controlled official Afghan news agency, Bakhtar said 'the incident was fabricated by Western media and never occurred in Logar or any other region' of Afghanistan.
'It is another example of imperialist interference and intensification of psychological warfare' against Afghanistan 'and we decisively condemn it.'
Barry led a three-member team from a Paris-based organization called Bureau International Afghanistan to the village from Nov. 26 to Dec. 4.
Barry said 105 Afghan civilians -- mostly migrant workers and refugees -- hid in the underground irrigation channel because they were afraid of the approaching Soviet and Afghan troops.
To trap the hiding Afghans, the Soviets first adjusted a small dam to make the channel's water rise. The Soviets then poured in an inflammable liquid 'probably petrol (gasoline) or kerosene which would float on the water's surface' and ignited it, the diplomat said.
'Everyone in the underground irrigation channel was burned to death,' Barry reported.
Sixty-one of the 105 victims were 'still recognizable because their faces were partly protected from the flames by the soft mud they pressed themselves into, to escape the flames,' a diplomat said.
Barry, who speaks the Dari language of Western Afghanistan, claimed 'he had interviewed eyewitnesses, been inside the underground irrigation channel, taken photos and brought back samples of the thick, sooty deposit now lying in the irrigation channel,' a diplomat said.
It was not immediately known why the Soviets burned the trapped civilians but it was believed the victims were suspected of being sympathizers of the Moslem rebels fighting the Moscow-backed communist regime.
In Islamabad, capital of Pakistan which borders Afghanistan, diplomatic sources said the regime in Kabul was considering drafting students to beef up the country's depleted army.
The sources said desertions and casualties had reduced the strength of the Afghan army from 80,000 at the time of the Marxist revolution in 1978, to nearly 30,000.