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Refugees Fear Taleban Will Force Them To Front Lines - 2001-10-27


U.S. warplanes struck the Afghan capital, Kabul on Saturday one day after the Taleban executed Abdul Haq, a former guerrilla leader who had returned to Afghanistan to raise a rebellion against the Taleban. The U.N.'s top refugee official begins a fact-finding mission to Pakistan on Saturday as concerns are growing of more refugees leaving Afghanistan.

Witnesses say there were huge explosions on the eastern edge of Kabul, as warplanes appear to have struck an ammunition depot. More strikes are reported near the Kabul airport and against Taleban front-line positions to the north of the city.

On Friday U.S. jets mistakenly bombed several warehouses belonging to the International Committee of the Red Cross that contained relief supplies.

Pakistan's President, General Pervez Musharraf has told the American television network ABC, that the U.S. strikes need to be more carefully targeted to avoid civilian casualties, which he says are causing concerns around the world.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Rudd Lubbers, begins a fact-finding mission to Pakistan on Saturday. More than 15,000 Afghan refugees are believed to waiting at the Pakistan, Afghanistan border which remains closed to all but the most severe humanitarian cases.

Pakistani and Taleban authorities have reached agreement to house many of the refugees in camps inside Afghanistan run by the Taleban. Peter Kessler of the UNHCR say there are growing concerns that some people trying to flee Afghanistan are being conscripted by the Taleban and sent to front-line areas.

"Refugees who have reached Pakistan told us they avoided the Taleban-run camps because they fear Taleban forces seeking men to fight could raid the sites," he said. "Afghans say they fear for their security in the remote sites. In this current environment of conflict and dwindling humanitarian space, no one should be forced into these precarious camps that are only a stone's throw from safety."

Meanwhile, Taleban authorities said on Saturday they are ready to hand over the body of former mujahedin commander Abdul Haq, and several of his followers to their families. The guerilla leader was executed by the Taleban on Friday after he and some of his followers were caught deep inside Taleban territory trying to organize a rebellion against Taleban rule.

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