The Philadelphia Inquirer
October 12, 2001
Kabul refugees tell of an
escaping over the mountains, they offered a glimpse of the chaos. The
Taliban is unseen, they maintain.
War With Terror
Afghanistan - After four nights of U.S. bombardments in Kabul, refugees
from the city said yesterday that Taliban militants had practically
disappeared from the streets of the capital but that normal daytime
refugees, who escaped by foot over mountains to opposition-held territory,
said that while the barrage of American missiles and bombs was
frightening, the air strikes appeared to be largely confined to military
targets and that few civilians were injured.
bombing the enemy, and it's my enemy, too," said Kandagho, 25, a
driver who, like many Afghans, uses only one name. "The United States
is doing the right thing."
Taliban claimed that at least 115 people had been killed in overnight
strikes late Wednesday and early yesterday, including 100 in a village
near Jalalabad and 15 who died when a missile hit a mosque in that
independent confirmation of the Taliban claims was possible.
flowed yesterday out of Kabul, providing a glimpse of a city beginning to
unravel under the steady blow of bombs.
bombs were coming very close," said a 36-year-old man whose family
lived next to Kabul's hard-hit airport. "We were frightened, so we
air raids resumed for a fifth night last night. On a clear, starlit night,
explosions of white and orange followed by distant thuds appeared on the
horizon 40 miles to the south of Jabal Saraj, the main town on the front
line between the Taliban and fighters of the Northern Alliance.
unnerved by the bombing, nearly all the refugees expressed support for the
U.S. government's attacks against the militant Islamic Taliban movement,
which harbors terrorism suspect Osama bin Laden. Their view may be
representative only of the small number of Afghans seeking refuge in
territory controlled by the opposition, rather than the larger population
of Afghans who have fled to other countries or stayed behind.
a very, very good thing the Americans are doing by only bombing military
installations," said a 66-year-old man who escaped with his nephew's
family. "The U.S. should continue this until the Taliban leave."
accuracy of the American cruise-missile strikes and bombing runs is
crucial to maintaining support for the international coalition assembled
to fight terrorism. Most Afghans in opposition-held territory have said
they support the attacks, as long as civilians are spared.
of the refugees who escaped Kabul yesterday have family or homes in the
Panjshir Valley, a stronghold of the Northern Alliance. After a two-hour
hike over a mountain, the refugees were greeted only by taxis charging $12
per person for a lift into Jabal Saraj, with as many other people as could
possibly fit into a truck.
Junod, a representative of the International Red Cross Committee in
Golbahar, said the relief agency was reluctant to conduct widespread
distributions of food to refugees out of fear that handouts might induce a
mass exodus from Kabul.
refugees carried few belongings as they made the daylong trek, taking two
or three taxi rides to a point on the Taliban side of a sharp ridge that
hides a smuggling route. Two hours down the trail, the asylum seekers
emerged on the edge of Northern Alliance territory - a stark plain strewn
with boulders and whipped by a fierce, dust-laced wind.
a 26-year-old Kabul woman whose burqa veil billowed wildly in the powerful
gusts, said she decided to leave with her brother, sister-in-law, and
their seven children after bombers destroyed a radar installation near her
lived with the Taliban, but we had a very bad life there," she said.
had held off taking the arduous overland trip because she thought the
Taliban might reopen one of the roads out of Kabul to the north. Unable to
afford the carfare, she and her family set off on foot to hike 15 miles
down a dusty road to Jabal Saraj. They carried a bundle of clothing, a
brass teapot and a water jug.
want to finish this conflict," she said of Afghanistan's 23-year
civil war. "We are tired."
and other refugees said the Taliban militiamen, who took Kabul in 1996,
had virtually disappeared from the city in recent days as bombing targeted
military and government installations, such as the radio station and the
are very few Taliban left," said Ahmed, 37, a former employee in the
Foreign Ministry until he was sacked by the Taliban. "Most of them
have gone into hiding or were taken out to the front lines."
this morning, as we left Kabul, we didn't see any Taliban," said a
60-year-old woman. "It used to be difficult to travel about without
all of the refugees who made it into Northern Alliance territory 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
Afghans here said they resented Pakistan's efforts to control
problem is that the foreigners have come to occupy Afghanistan,"
Kandagho said. "They're taking over the good buildings, and they
forced out good working people."
neighbor, Mirzada, was one of a dozen people packed in a van to escape the
Taliban. "The Americans are wrong to be bombing," he said.
"They should be bombing Pakistan."