Few remain in Kabul as raids intensify

Poor and sick are unable to leave, merchant says

War On Terrorism : The World

October 12, 2001|By Douglas Birch | Douglas Birch,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

GOLBAHAR, Afghanistan - The only people left in Kabul, said a resident who escaped yesterday, are those who don't have the money or health to leave.

Ferouz, a 30-year-old merchant, got the money together and crowded onto a bus that drove north to territory controlled by the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. He said the bombing in Kabul was devastating.

"Last night was the worst," said Ferouz, who uses only one name. "Until 6 o'clock in the morning, it was continuous."

American bombs or cruise missiles destroyed a missile storage facility, an airplane on the tarmac at Kabul airport and Taliban bunkers there, said Ferouz, who fled his home with his wife and nine children after the attacks. The Taliban's military university was also a target, he said.

About 80 percent of the residents of his neighborhood have fled the city, Ferouz said, along with many Taliban.

"In one week, I'm sure they will all escape from Kabul," he said.

After four nights of bombing, the people of Kabul had been expecting more of the same - an attack beginning after dark.

Yesterday's attack came at 5:30 p.m., when skies were clear and many were out shopping. In the panic, civilians jumped into donkey carts, hopped on bicycles and threw themselves into hand-drawn wagons, according to accounts.

About four hours later, U.S. planes struck again. A fireball was seen from the direction of Rishkore, an al-Qaida training base near Kabul. The camp has been empty for months, but buildings, training facilities and offices remain. Detonations were also heard east of Kabul near a military academy and artillery batteries targeted the previous night.

Some of the refugees walked out, carrying few belongings on the daylong trek. Then they took two or three taxi rides to a point on the side of a sharp ridge that hides a smuggling route. Two hours down the trail, asylum-seekers emerged on the edge of a stark plain strewn with boulders and whipped by a fierce dust-laced wind - Northern Alliance territory.

They were greeted only by taxis charging $12 per person for a lift into Jabal Saraj.

Almost all of the refugees who headed in this direction were ethnic Tajiks, the majority in this area but the second-largest ethnic group in Afghanistan.

Ethnic Pashtuns, the nation's largest ethnic group with ties to the Pakistan government, make up the leadership of the Taliban.

The refugees are heading into uncertainty, unsure where they will find food in this drought-stricken land.

Pierre Junod, a representative of the International Red Cross in Golbahar, said the relief agency was reluctant to conduct widespread distributions of food to refugees, fearing that handouts might induce an exodus from Kabul.

Some aid is beginning to come into the country, but a day after the U.N. World Food Program announced it was resuming road shipments into Afghanistan, it hit a roadblock in the form of the Taliban.

A convoy of supplies from Pakistan to the city of Herat, in western Afghanistan near the Iranian border, was stopped by Taliban demanding a large "road tax."

"We refused," said spokesman Francesco Luna.

The standoff remained unresolved late last night.

Wire reports contributed to this article.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.