Afghanistan's ruling Taliban militia has slapped taxes on UN food aid arriving in the country from Iran as well as from Pakistan, the UN World Food Program (WFP) said Thursday October 11.
The organization’s representative in Iran, Marius Degaay Fortman, told AFP that a WFP convoy of trucks from Iran loaded with 100 tons of wheat flour from the United States was taxed before arriving in Herat.
"The convoy was taxed at $7.5 per ton. It arrived Wednesday in Herat," the official said, adding that a first shipment reached Herat the previous day but it was "not believed to have been taxed". Degaay Fortman said the convoys would continue despite the taxes, with a shipment of fruit to follow on Sunday.
"It looks as though we are going to expand" and increase the pace of deliveries through the Iranian border crossing of Dogharoun to Herat, 150 miles (90 miles) to the east, he said.
The WFP representative warned that stocks were low in Herat, as US-led air strikes continue against the Taliban for harboring Osama Bin Laden, the prime suspect in last month's anti-US terror attacks.
"They have about 50 tons of wheat flour there right now," he said. "It's hand to mouth. There are 200,000 displaced people in the Herat region needing such assistance." A WFP spokesman in Islamabad protested earlier Thursday that the Taliban had held up a separate food aid convoy from Pakistan also bound for Herat in western Afghanistan by demanding an "unacceptable" tax.
Taliban officials had demanded $32 for each of the 475 tons of aid bound for Herat. The convoy was due to leave southwestern Pakistan on Thursday, Francesco Luna said.
Luna said the convoy of about 15 trucks was stuck in the Pakistani town of Quetta because Taliban authorities just over the border in Spin Boldak surprised the WFP by demanding the tax.
"It's something new for us... we refused," he said, adding the WFP was negotiating with the Taliban to drop their demand. "We hope we will be able to get from Quetta to Herat as soon as possible." — (AFP, Zahedan)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)