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UN: Looting and Chaos in Mazar-e-Sharif - 2001-11-12

United Nations aid agencies report looting of their warehouses and scenes of chaos in Mazar-e-Sharif, after the Afghan city fell to the Northern Alliance anti-Taleban forces on Friday.

The World Food Program says its warehouse in Mazar-e-Sharif was looted following the capture of the city. Spokeswoman Christiane Bertiaume says the situation in the city is still very volatile. "We have reports of looting, of abductions from the city, of even uncontrolled freelance gunmen, and there are some street battles that are going on in Mazar-e-Sherif," she said. "And so we hope that the security situation will increase, so that we can bring inside food for the needy people. There are an estimated quarter of a million people inside Mazar, and of these, we have already fed 120,000."

Ms. Bertiaume says a consignment of 89 tons of food was stolen from the WFP warehouse in Mazar-e-Sharif. The organization wants to secure a road from a nearby town in order to bring 2,000 tons of food into the city.

The United Nations children's agency (UNICEF) says armed men broke into its offices in Mazar-e-Sharif, and stole computers, furniture and radio equipment.

UNICEF spokeswoman Wivina Belmonte says local agency workers report that both Taleban and Northern Alliance forces have been involved in raids on agency vehicles containing relief supplies and equipment. "We are also trying to get vehicles reportedly taken by Taleban forces as they moved away from Mazar," she said. "These are UNICEF vehicles that also had communication equipment belonging to UNICEF, a satellite phone, a computer that had been set up in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Mazar office. So, we are trying to get this material back."

Ms. Belmonte says UNICEF is also trying to retrieve from Northern Alliance forces supplies brought in by a truck convoy that carried 200 metric tons of cargo and 150 family-sized tents with heaters. "We lost supplies from a 10-truck convoy, which arrived in Mazar as scheduled on Saturday," said Ms. Belmonte. "It was the first U.N. consignment of relief items to reach the city, following its capture by Northern Alliance forces. UNICEF is now in the process of trying to speak to the force's commander in the area."

U.N officials are calling on all the parties to guarantee the safety of aid workers distributing needed supplies.