Afghan Refugees on the Run From War Horror
Afghan refugees reaching the border with Pakistan are recounting horrific experiences as they flee the mounting conflict between US warplanes and the Taliban militia.
Staff of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said people arriving at the border were telling of seeing dead and starving children and many homeless and desperate families. And it is expected to worsen.
More than 60,000 refugees have crossed into Pakistan since the September 11 suicide plane attacks on New York and Washington.
That number, according to UNHCR spokesman Yusuf Hassan, is expected to rise to 300,000 within weeks and up to 1.5 million in the longer term.
Refugees are also confirming UNHCR projections that thousands more are on their way with the cities of Kandahar -- a Taliban stronghold -- and Herat virtually emptied following 18 days of bombing.
According to United Nations officials up to 70 percent of the populations of Herat and Kandahar have now fled.
"They are coming here," said refugee Abdul Hameel at the emergency camp of Killi Faizo near the Chaman border post in southwest Pakistan. "It will only take a few days but they are coming."
Hameel travelled from his village of Badgiz outside the western Afghan city of Herat to Killi Faizoi, a camp established this week by the Pakistan government and the UNHCR.
The camp will handle only the most desperate cases with a clinic to be operated by the Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) aid group.
Hameel said he travelled for six days with five families. On the way he counted 28 dead civilians on the roadside. He said Kandahar in southern Afghanistan was rubble and empty.
In the same camp, an emaciated 30-year-old women who declined to be named said she fled Kabul almost two weeks ago after her husband was killed during a US air raid.
"I took my five children and begged rides to the border," she said. The journey took five days and they spent the sixth day in the open on the Afghan side of the border, about 500 metres (yard) from Chaman, before being allowed to cross.
"Look at me, I have nothing."
Abdul Gafoor said his entire family of 18 was killed by a missile strike over Tarai in Urzugan province.
He fled to Chaman, bringing two orphans and arriving at the same time as Abdul Karim, who said six relatives were injured in the heavy bombing of Herat that had left "many civilians buried alive."
Killi Faizo has been set up to cope with the growing humanitarian crisis caused by the panic reactions in Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks and ensuing reprisals against the Taliban regime and alleged terrorist Osama bin Laden.
Refugees said Urzugan had been hard hit. Abdul Mauroofi, from his hospital bed in Quetta in Pakistan, told how 20 civilians, including nine children, died after a tractor they were riding on was hit by a bomb.
Their village had been struck and residents decided to flee in a trailer hitched to the tractor when US war jets struck. "There were no Taliban bases within a three kilometre (almost two mile) radius," Mauroofi said.
Although there is no independent confirmation of the claims, many refugees have said the number of dead civilians appears to outweigh the number of dead Taliban.
Habi Ullah, who fought his way to Killi Faizo with Abdul Hameel said: "We saw 28 dead civilians, 15 bodies at one point, 13 at another and as far as the Taliban, we did not see anything" -- Pakistan, (AFP)