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Tuesday, 29 January, 2002, 18:55 GMT
More Afghan refugees in Pakistan

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) says more than 3,500 Afghans have crossed into Pakistan in the past few days, most of them Pashtuns complaining of persecution.

The UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski said in Geneva that the Pashtuns allege they have been persecuted by various Northern Alliance groups because of their ethnic origin.

He said the new refugees, who crossed the border at the Pakistani city of Chaman, were mainly from cities in northern Afghanistan, such as Kunduz and Mazar-i-Sharif, as well as Herat and Kandahar.

Some of them had been travelling for up to two months.

The spokesman said UNHCR staff in Pakistan were planning missions into Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan to distribute aid and help keep Afghans in their own country.

He said, however, that security for aid workers in Afghanistan was still a major problem, despite some recent improvements.

From the newsroom of the BBC World Service

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