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UN: Law and Order Collapsing in Some Afghan Cities - 2001-10-16

The United Nations says the law and order situation in Kandahar and other Afghan cities appears to be breaking down, threatening relief operations in Afghanistan. U.N. officials say sporadic clashes have broken out between Taleban authorities and what they describe as armed Arabs.

As the U.S.-led air raids on targets within Afghanistan stretch into their second week, U.N. officials say relief agency offices in the country are increasingly becoming the targets of armed gunmen.

U.N. spokeswoman Stephanie Bunker says the British-based group Islamic Relief scaled back its operations in Afghanistan after 20 armed "non-Afghans" forced their way into the agency's offices Saturday.

She says fighting broke out when Taleban police intervened.

"Islamic Relief officials discussed the matter with the local authorities who said they are not in a position to guarantee their safety because clashes have broken out between non-Afghan armed elements and Taleban police," she says.

In response to a reporter's question, Ms. Bunker described the non-Afghan gunmen as Arabs. She says Arab gunmen have also been blamed for other incidents. "Other reports say that some of the non-Afghans living on the outskirts of Kandahar city and other places have begun moving into residential areas," she says. "They have allegedly taken over empty private residences and some agency offices, sometimes taking over their vehicles and office equipment," she says.

Also in the northern town of Mazar-e-Sharif, Ms. Bunker says a group of armed Taleban robbed a U.N. office late Monday, tying up another Taleban guard during the attack.

Some U.N. aid convoys are heading into Afghanistan even as the U.S. led raids continue, but Ms. Bunker says the deteriorating law and order situation is also putting relief operations at risk.

Meanwhile, the compound of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Afghan capital was struck Tuesday by a U.S. bomb. The strike left a guard injured and destroyed wheat and other humanitarian supplies.

In the initial waves of the attacks, a U.N. office in Kabul was also mistakenly struck, killing four local U.N. workers.