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Afghan expert Ahmed Rashid
"A very very desperate situation"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 12 September, 2000, 13:19 GMT 14:19 UK
Afghan refugees head for Tajikistan
Pamir range
The refugees are holed up in the Pamir mountains
Up to 150,000 people in northern Afghanistan are said to be fleeing from advancing Taleban forces and making their way to the Tajikistan border.

European aid workers in the area say the refugees are in a desperate situation - without food, shelter or medicines.

The refugees are sheltering in the Pamir mountains, a remote and inaccessible area near the international border, which has been closed by the Tajikistan Government.

These people have nowhere to go

Afghan expert Ahmed Rashid
The refugees include almost the entire population of the town of Taloqan, which was recently captured by the Taleban in its drive to expel the opposition Northern Alliance from its remaining strongholds.

"These people have nowhere to go. There is no food, no shelter, no equipment or medicine," Afghan affairs expert, Ahmed Rashid, told BBC World Service radio from Lahore, Pakistan.

"Children are suffering very acutely from malaria, diarrhoea and dehydration because of a severe drought in the region," he said.

Massacre fears

The refugees are very closely linked to the Northern Alliance and its commander Ahmed Shah Masood.

Afghan map
They are fleeing the Taleban forces because they fear for their life.

Last year and the year before, when the Taleban made similar military gains in the area, a large number of civilians were massacred.

This year the Taleban's supreme leader, Mullah Omar, publicly broadcast a message to his troops asking them not to carry out any massacres or enter people's homes.

"But the fear is paramount. People just don't believe it and they think there could be serious killing," said Ahmed Rashid.

Aid workers say they are unable to reach the refugees because of the remoteness of the area.

United Nations officials are now in Kabul trying to persuade the Taleban to allow aid convoys through before snow blocks roads and leaves the refugees stranded.

The winter in the Pamir mountains is only six weeks away and there is an urgent need to get food stocks to the refugees to last them through the winter months.

The Taleban, which captured power in 1996, control 90% of the country, with just a small bit of territory in the north holding out.

They have made several attempts to capture the remaining 10% and extend their rule to the entire country.

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See also:

07 Sep 00 | South Asia
Taleban 'to consolidate positions'
06 Sep 00 | South Asia
Taleban capture key northern town
10 Jul 00 | South Asia
New fighting near Kabul
29 Jul 00 | South Asia
Taleban slice opposition lifeline
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