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Monday, 15 October, 2001, 10:02 GMT 11:02 UK
Eyewitness: Residents flee Kabul
Afghan refugees
Many Kabul residents are opting to leave
By Catherine Davis on the Shomali plains, north of Kabul

Residents fleeing Kabul have been describing their experience of the first week of American-led air strikes on the city.


We were watching, praying to God to protect us

Kabul resident
Some residents have sought refuge with friends and relatives in opposition-held territory, although officials and aid agencies there say there has been no large influx of people into the Shomali plains in the north of Afghanistan since the bombing began.

Some Kabul residents chose not to leave when the possibility of air strikes first emerged.

Disbelief

One man said at that point he did not believe the United States would really bomb the city.

But last week he brought his family to opposition-held territory and now he is joining them.

Not everyone can afford to leave Kabul, though, and others have chosen not to.

This is not the first, or according to many residents, the worst bombardment the city has endured.

Explosion in north Kabul
Huge explosions rocked the city

As the air strikes began, fear and curiosity brought some people to the roofs of their homes.

"We were watching, praying to God to protect us," said one man.

Another spoke of the deafening explosions, saying that the ground shook like an earthquake and that he saw smoke billowing towards the sky from the direction of the airport.

Planning to return

But not all those leaving Kabul are doing so out of fear - some are here for business reasons and intend to return to the city soon.

They explained they saw no need to close their shops or their homes.

But the issue of civilian casualties is likely to affect support here for these strikes.

A father carries his son, reportedly injured by US air strikes
Reports of civilian injuries are likely to affect support

As one man put it, "even if my friends and neighbours are injured or killed that is like losing my family, I will be very angry."

Another man said he had already signed up to wage a jihad against the United States.

"I'm an Afghan citizen," he said. "If a foreign power attacks our country and kills our people, we'll fight, it doesn't matter which side you're on."

See also:

15 Oct 01 | South Asia
Kabul hit by heavy daylight raids
15 Oct 01 | South Asia
Thousands cross into Pakistan illegally
22 Sep 01 | South Asia
Pakistan's fear of refugee flood
19 Sep 01 | South Asia
On edge: Afghanistan's neighbours
14 Oct 01 | Americas
Military campaign: One week on
14 Oct 01 | South Asia
Millions at risk in Afghan crisis
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