UN Says More Afghans Flee Fighting, Drought
Some 5,000 Afghan refugees arrived in neighboring Pakistan this week, fleeing fighting and drought in the north of the war-torn country, the United Nations said Friday.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said 28,000 people had crossed into Pakistan in the past month as fighting between the ruling Taliban religious militia and opposition forces raged in the northeast.
"The UNHCR is concerned that continued fighting and the onset of winter may force more Afghans to flee to Pakistan," it said in a statement.
"The fighting and the worst drought in living memory also have displaced thousands inside the country."
Pakistan already hosts 1.2 million Afghan refugees, most of whom fled the 1979-89 Soviet occupation and have not returned amid factional fighting which continues to this day.
The UNHCR said it had set aside an additional 950,000 dollars to meet the "urgent" needs of the new refugees, many of whom had crossed at the Torkham border post in North West Frontier Province and various points along the frontier with Baluchistan province to the south.
Earlier Friday the UN World Food Program said 500,000 to one million Afghans were facing starvation due to the drought in coming months unless desperately needed resources are provided by the international community.
The ruling Taliban religious militia controls about 90 percent of the country, except for various isolated pockets of resistance and northeastern Badakshan province, bordering Tajikistan.
The northeast has seen fierce fighting since August as the Taliban try to wipe out opposition forces loyal to commander Ahmed Shah Masood and ousted president Burhanuddin Rabbani -- ISLAMABAD (AFP)
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