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Thursday, 27 September, 2001, 12:09 GMT 13:09 UK
Fears grow for trapped Afghans
Afghan refugees waiting for cooking oil at Jalozai camp, Pakistan
Pakistan is struggling to stop a new influx of refugees
Aid agencies are warning of an impending humanitarian disaster inside Afghanistan, where up to eight million people are expected to need food aid this winter.

While thousands have been heading for surrounding countries, most Afghans are too poor and hungry even to be able to travel to the international borders, the BBC's Afghanistan correspondent Kate Clark says.

Fears of a US military strike have triggered an exodus from Afghan towns and the capital Kabul, exacerbating the crisis.

Click here for map of Afghanistan

UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond in Geneva told the BBC that one million refugees could head for Pakistan, 400,000 for Iran and 100,000 for the ex-Soviet republics.

But after years of war and drought many Afghans are already in such a weakened state that they cannot reach the country's borders, Mr Redmond said.

Foreign staff withdrawn

Aid programmes have also been hit by the withdrawal of foreign staff amid heightened security fears. But the aid agency Save the Children says it is expanding its programmes inside Afghanistan.

I have seen for myself people eating grass, animal fodder and locusts

Khaled Mansour, UN World Food Programme

The Americans are demanding that the Saudi-born militant Osama Bin Laden - chief suspect behind the 11 September suicide attacks - be handed over, but the ruling Taleban have refused. He is believed to be still hiding in Afghanistan.

In other developments:

  • President Bush is to propose putting more air marshals on US domestic flights, among other security measures
  • More than 1,000 protesters rally outside US embassy in Jakarta, as some diplomats prepare to leave Indonesia
  • The oil producers' organisation Opec has left its output levels unchanged despite price falls
  • US civil rights campaigner Jesse Jackson says the Taleban have invited him to lead a peace delegation to Pakistan
  • US authorities arrest 29 people amid fears of attack using trucks loaded with hazardous materials
  • Relatives of the more than 6,000 people missing after the World Trade Center attack begin to seek death certificates
  • Taleban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar issued a new warning against Afghans helping the United States
  • US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld rules out any single co-ordinated assault against international terrorism

The UNHCR has appealed for $252m to deal with the emergency in and around Afghanistan.

And the German Foreign Minister, Joschka Fischer, is chairing a meeting of international donors for Afghanistan in Berlin.

New camps

The United Nations has identified more than 100 potential sites for new refugee camps in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province and Baluchistan and another 20 in Iran.

Refugee with children in wheelbarrow
Refugees will use any transport - even a wheelbarrow
The two countries are already hosting 3.5 million Afghan refugees - the largest refugee group in the world.

Taleban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar has urged fleeing Afghans to return home, saying the threat of US military strikes has receded.

Aid agencies say that up to 20,000 refugees are already massed on Pakistan's border with Afghanistan. But Pakistan says no new refugees may cross its border unless there is a "humanitarian crisis".

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The BBC's Matt Frei
"The border crossing is a throng of humanity in a hurry"
The BBC's Jacky Rowland
reports from a refugee camp in the north of Afghanistan
The BBC's Andrew Bomford, in Islamabad
reports on Pakistan's National Solidarity Day: "This is the show of unity this country so badly needs"
See also:

27 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Blair calls for aid alliance
27 Sep 01 | South Asia
Afghans brace for US strike
11 Jan 01 | South Asia
Afghan refugees' unending plight
22 Sep 01 | South Asia
Pakistan's fear of refugee flood
24 Sep 01 | South Asia
Taleban retreat in heavy fighting
25 Sep 01 | South Asia
Pakistan warns of Afghan instability
25 Sep 01 | South Asia
The wild border town of Quetta
26 Sep 01 | South Asia
Afghans place hopes in UN
27 Sep 01 | Americas
Jackson ponders Afghan peace mission
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