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Friday, 19 October, 2001, 22:08 GMT 23:08 UK
Taleban force aid agency to close
A WFP truck in Peshawar
Aid agencies say they have been harassed in Afghanistan
One of the largest aid agencies operating in Afghanistan has said members of the Taleban have looted its offices in five cities, beating some local staff and forcing them to stop operations.

The Swedish Committee for Afghanistan says all its offices in the Taleban-controlled northern provinces are now closed, although rural programmes are still running.

The statement follows similar reports from the United Nations and Medicins Sans Frontieres of looting and damage to offices.

Afghan woman carrying UN supplied bread
UN bakeries support 350,000 Afghans
Most aid organisations are still trying to keep life-saving operations running.

But since the American-led air campaign began, some members of the ruling Taleban have become increasingly hostile or keen to take the opportunity to loot.

In Mazar-e-Sharif in the north, the Swedish Committee quoted reliable reports saying its compound was looted and fuel reserves set on fire.

Officials from the Taleban ministry of planning intervened, but ultimately were unsuccessful.

Office occupied

The committee said vehicles in two other cities were commandeered by senior Taleban and computers, telephones and furniture taken, and in Pul-e-Khumri, where the Taleban beat Swedish Committee guards, it says all international aid agencies have been at least partially looted and are now closed.

The Swedish Committee has 170 schools and more than 50 health clinics in the northern region alone, and is one of the oldest agencies working in Afghanistan.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has also reported that its office in Kunduz, in northern Afghanistan, has been occupied by the Taleban and its warehouses sealed.

Survival equipment, such as blankets and warm clothing now cannot be distributed to those in need. Staff of the IOM - a United Nations agency - were beaten up during the occupation and have now been sent home.

Taleban forces arrived at the office at Kunduz on Wednesday, removing radio equipment from the office and taking two vehicles.

Taleban officials then made an inventory of the contents of the warehouse which contained winter survival items of the IOM and the United Nations children's fund.

See also:

01 Oct 01 | South Asia
How Afghans became aid dependent
30 Sep 01 | South Asia
In pictures: Afghanistan's refugees
19 Sep 01 | South Asia
On edge: Afghanistan's neighbours
27 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Blair calls for aid alliance
25 Sep 01 | South Asia
The wild border town of Quetta
01 Oct 01 | World
Afghanistan's missing millions
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