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Friday, December 11, 1998 Published at 09:28 GMT


World: South Asia

Mazar-e-Sharif calm after storm

The Taleban say aid agenies should return

Thousands of people were allegedly massacred when the North Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif fell to the Taleban in August. William Reeve, was the first journalist to go back there:

The city of Mazar-e-Sharif could be described as peaceful, calm, but perhaps a bit tense.

The bazaars are busy and people are going about their daily lives. Most people say they are happy with the present security in Mazar. As in other Taleban-held cities, some complain about the strict Taleban rules but most say they just want to get on with their lives in peace.

Before the Taleban seized Mazar there were many months of virtual anarchy, with groups within the anti-Taleban alliance fighting occasional pitched battles against one another.

Not many Taleban soldiers can be seen on the streets today. Not many ethnic Hazaras can be seen around town either, certainly not Hazara men of fighting age.

The Hazaras belong to the same ethnic group as the main faction, Hezb-e-Wahdat, that held the city before the Taleban took control.

Mazar is the capital of Balkh province and the provincial governor, Maulavi Akhtar Mohammad Osmani, says there is sporadic fighting in the mountains to the south of Mazar but he described the fighting as hit-and-run attacks by remnants of the anti-Taleban forces in the area.

The only international aid organisations operating in Mazar-e-Sharif are the International Red Cross and Medecins Sans Frontieres.

The Red Cross has been visiting and registering prisoners still held by the Taleban in jails in the north of the country. It also supplies medicines for war wounded in the main hospitals there. MSF runs clinics in the same area.

The Taleban authorities in Mazar say they would like other international aid agencies to return, especially those working in the health sector. But the outcome of the latest meeting of donors in Tokyo would seem to make this unlikely, especially for the foreseeable future.



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