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Tuesday, 6 November, 2001, 16:18 GMT
Bombs boost town's Taleban support
Market in Herat
In the daytime life in Herat is more or less normal
Last week a group of Iranian journalists were given permission to visit Herat, the main city of north-western Afghanistan.

Massood Heidari of the ISNA news agency - one of the most independent agencies in Iran - spoke at length to the BBC about what he saw there.

The first snow of the winter fell last week in Herat and the city is very short of fuel.

There is some electricity, but only for two or three hours each evening.

People are forced to gather firewood in the outskirts.

Herat itself has not been hit by the air raids, which have been aimed at Taleban military facilities north of the city.

But the Taleban say two villages in the area have been hit by stray bombs, and Massood Heidari says he saw 20 badly injured civilians in the city's main hospital.

Evening exodus

Each evening there is an exodus to surrounding villages where it is safer.

The air raids have caused a lot of fear.

But in the daytime life is more or less normal, with a lot of hustle and bustle, and shops and offices working normally.

The bombings are deeply unpopular and, if anything, they have lessened hostility towards the Taleban

Massood Heidari
There still seems plenty of food in the shops, but food prices have risen sharply, and many people just cannot afford them.

The city is full of beggars and there is an increasing flow of refugees from other regions.

They are housed in refugee camps outside the city, which are now bursting with people.

Conditions there are dire, with serious shortages of food and medicine.

Taleban in control

As for the Taleban, they seem fully in control, and there are no obvious signs of internal divisions.

And they have eased up on their imposition of strict Islamic codes.

Herat in the past has had little sympathy for the Taleban.

Its culture is Persian, not Pashtun, and some of its people are also Shia.

But the bombings are deeply unpopular and, if anything, they have lessened hostility towards the Taleban.

The general atmosphere is of a sad, rather neglected city. Nothing new has been built for years.

But despite the fear caused by the night-time attacks, there is no real feeling of war or siege.

In Herat, at least, the Taleban do not give the impression that they are about to collapse under pressure.

See also:

23 Oct 01 | South Asia
Herat: Key Afghan stronghold
23 Oct 01 | South Asia
Civilian toll growing, say Taleban
22 Oct 01 | South Asia
Analysis: The world's plans for Afghans
07 Nov 01 | UK Politics
'Net closing' on Bin Laden
23 Oct 01 | Americas
The CIA's new mission
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