Tens of thousands war-displaced refugees face uncertain future

BBC News, 8/9/1999
By William Reeve in Kabul

In the aftermath of the latest round of fighting in Afghanistan in the Shomali Valley, that stretches up about 80km north of the capital, Kabul, civilians displaced by the fighting are still suffering in a variety of ways.

The Taleban took all the valley last week then retreated back to the frontlines where they had started, about 25km north of Kabul.

Tens of thousands of civilians fled in the face of the advancing Taleban forces to the Panjshir Valley, stronghold of the veteran opposition commander, Ahmad Shah Massoud.

Tens of thousands of others were forced south by the Taleban.

Some have now returned to their homes, but the immediate fate for others is far from certain.

Forced displacement

When the Taleban succeeded, if briefly, in capturing the whole of the fertile Shomali valley, they confirmed they were clearing out the entire population as a temporary measure until there was no longer a threat from opposition forces.

The Taleban sent people south in commandeered buses to Kabul and also to a camp near the eastern city of Jalalabad.

Those taken to Jalalabad - about 700 families - have now been brought by the Taleban to the old Soviet embassy compound in the capital.

During the evacuation of the Shomali valley, many men of fighting age were taken to prison.

Some were released, others are still detained.

'Children worst hit'

Since Friday however, displaced families have been allowed to return to their homes on the Taleban side of the frontline.

Many have gone back - others are bringing their cattle to sell in Kabul.

But in the capital itself, many homes are giving shelter to large numbers of displaced families who cannot go back to their villages because they lie on the other side of the frontlines.

Most displaced people arrived in Kabul with no money and just the clothes they were wearing.

Families said they want to get back home as soon as possible to bring in this year's harvest - their major income.

They said their children had been worst hit by the evacuation.

Seven of those sent to Jalalabad are reported to have died, mostly of dehydration and fever.

Photos of forced displacement of people by Taliban

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