Tags: Fearing | Retaliation | Thousands | Afghanistan | Flee

Fearing Retaliation, Thousands in Afghanistan Flee

Tuesday, 18 September 2001 12:00 AM

Reports from Kabul and Islamabad indicated a massive flow of refugees following last week's terrorist attacks in Washington and New York City. In a statement, the UNHCR said residents were leaving the principal towns of Kandahar and Kabul.

Officials of the Taliban regimen have implemented measures to prevent refugees from trying to cross the Pakistani border.

"Taliban guards are reportedly allowing only Afghans bearing passports to reach the frontier, which severely limits the movement of people into Pakistan," UNHCR said.

The situation in other parts of Afghanistan remains grim, the agency said.

"In Afghanistan's western city of Herat, the atmosphere is tense and residents are reportedly confused about developments in the country, where people are so impoverished that even radios and batteries are in short supply and television is banned," according to the UNHCR.

UNHCR is holding discussions with the Pakistani government officials to allow some 5,000 Afghans at the Charman border crossing to enter the country.

The agency is asking authorities to let any new arrivals be sheltered in camps, where they have access to adequate water and other facilities. The agency has sent thousands of tents to Pakistan as an emergency measure.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Wednesday the U.S. government was in contact with the U.N. on the issue and had provided Pakistan with $140 million in humanitarian aid.

The U.N. World Food Program, meanwhile, said it has enough food in Afghanistan for two to three weeks, but the departure of staff from the country has hampered its distribution effort. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan ordered the evacuation of all staff from Afghanistan as a precautionary measure, fearing a U.S.-led military campaign against the country.

Replenishing the stocks also presents a problem as trucking companies are unwilling to enter Afghanistan, the WFP said.

In August of last year, the chief U.N. envoy to Afghanistan, Erick de Mul, strongly criticized sanctions imposed by the Security Council after the ruling Taliban regime refused to turn over Saudi exile and suspected terrorism mastermind Osama bin Laden. Mul said the Afghan population couldn't cope with "further economic shocks."

De Mul said that "these sanctions came on top of a devastating drought and large-scale population displacement." He warned that "the coping capacity of the civilian population has been severely weakened as a result of the war and the erosion of many traditional coping mechanisms."

In the fall of 1999, the U.N. imposed sanctions against Afghanistan in an attempt to force the fundamentalist Taliban to hand over bin Laden, who was then accused of launching terrorism attacks around the world, among them the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. Bin Laden is the prime suspect in the attacks in New York and Washington.

The most significant direct hit from the U.N. sanctions, according to de Mul, had been on Afghanistan's official Ariana Airlines, whose loss of air routes had prevented export shipments of fresh fruit, leaving it to be sold only to the domestic market. That means the produce fetches a lower price than it would in foreign markets, further reducing the country's ability to financially manage the situation.

Copyright 2001 by United Press International.

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Reports from Kabul and Islamabad indicated a massive flow of refugees following last week's terrorist attacks in Washington and New York City. In a statement, the UNHCR said residents were leaving the principal towns of Kandahar and Kabul. Officials of the Taliban...
Fearing,Retaliation,,Thousands,Afghanistan,Flee
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2001-00-18
Tuesday, 18 September 2001 12:00 AM
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