The Philadelphia Inquirer
October 22, 2001
Refugees fleeing Kabul say
support for U.S. is fading
War With Terror
Afghanistan - As the American bombing campaign entered its third week
yesterday, refugees flowing out of Kabul said the duration of the air
campaign and the increased number of civilian casualties were beginning to
undermine initial support for the American action.
a lot of civilian casualties," said trader Mohammed, 25, who sat
yesterday on a truck piled with cargo and a dozen refugees who had walked
through Taliban lines. He said more than a dozen civilians were killed
Friday night when a bomb struck Sarai Shamali, an informal marketplace in
saw a lot of injured people," he said. "I'm a little worried;
there are a lot of people angry and upset."
accounts of refugees escaping to opposition-held northern Afghanistan
could not be verified, but they affirm other reports of errant American
bombs in Afghanistan's capital. An Associated Press reporter in Kabul
yesterday counted at least seven dead in a midday bombing of two homes in
the Khair Khana district of northern Kabul.
man who gave his name only as Sayed sat crammed in a jeep yesterday with
his wife, five children, and six other adults. He fled Kabul after a bomb
struck too close to his house Saturday, even though the closest military
installation is a mile from his home. His family escaped injury.
was very frightening," said the man, who had a long gray beard and
wore a skull cap. "All the glass in the windows shattered, and all
the doors came off their hinges.
can we say? It's a danger that God brings us. I blame Osama bin Laden and
the United States. Both are the same."
United States launched the air strikes on Oct. 7 against the radical
Islamic Taliban regime for harboring Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda
network, the chief suspects in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York
comments from refugees this weekend were strikingly different from
reactions during the first week of bombing, when a kind of euphoria swept
through some Kabul neighborhoods that figured the air strikes signaled a
quick exit of the loathed Taliban rulers. Most people fleeing to territory
held by the United Front are sympathetic to the opposition, so their
comments tend to be slanted against the Taliban.
first, the people thought bombing would be finished very soon and the
Taliban would be gone," said Zalmay, a hotel owner who fled Kabul
yesterday with his wife and five children. "On the contrary, the
Taliban are gaining confidence. They announced at Friday prayers that the
U.S. would be destroyed if they attacked on the ground, that they will
defeat them like they defeated the Russians during the jihad."
officials for the Islamic State of Afghanistan, the government-in-exile
that the Taliban ousted from Kabul in 1996 and that still claims to be
Afghanistan's legitimate government, said about 5,000 people fled Kabul in
the last week for territory held by the opposition United Front. The
number is smaller than the number of Taliban supporters who are fleeing to
the refugees spoke yesterday along a dirt road leading from Taliban front
lines, the explosions of American bombs striking Kabul seemed like distant
thunder to the south. Later in the day, U.S. warplanes streaked high over
Jabal Saraj heading due south toward Kabul, causing residents in the
crowded marketplace to crane their necks and point skyward at the roaring
the bombing seemed a remote presence from opposition-held territory, the
Kabul refugees described the fear of feeling the earth shake from bombs
hitting targets in their neighborhoods.
bomb hit the military club about 200 meters from my house on Friday,"
said Sayed Mirzar, 30, an auto mechanic who left Kabul on Saturday to join
his wife, who had fled the week before. "We thought the bomb fell in
our own house, it was so loud."
Kabul residents who escaped to this dusty stretch of desert 25 miles north
of the capital were dimly aware that American Special Forces troops had
staged two raids in southern Afghanistan, but they had only heard the
Taliban version of events, in which the movement claimed to have shot down
an American helicopter and to have killed more than 20 U.S. soldiers.
refugees said the Taliban soldiers were commandeering private residences
in Kabul and staying there or in mosques at night to avoid staying at
military installations that were more likely to be targeted by bombers.
26, a trader who carried a single handbag across the mountainous foot
trail on Saturday and then paid $13 to be wedged into a jeep that drove
him an hour to Golbahar, said that business had shut down in Kabul as the
bombing campaign had driven much of the population underground or away
from the capital.
and others said that new recruits of Islamic fundamentalists from Pakistan
had arrived to reinforce Taliban positions depleted by defections.
new troops had apparently crossed the border without difficulty, despite
Pakistan's promises to help the American effort to curtail terrorism.
new troops arrive at night," said Muhibullah, who, like many
pro-opposition ethnic Tajiks, holds strong anti-Pakistan views. "On
the one hand, Pakistan says they're against terrorism. On the other hand,
they continue to support it."
and others say they believe that Pakistan is tipping off the Taliban about
the American bombing schedule so that they avoid the brunt of the air
bombing doesn't bring peace," Muhibullah said. "If this
continues, the Taliban will remain in power. As long as Pakistan is
involved, there will be no peace for Americans and Afghanistan."
spoke as he ate a lunch of mutton kebabs at a caf in Golbahar, where he
planned to catch a bus to his hometown, Panjshir. It was in Panjshir in
1982 that a Soviet bomb fell on a mujaheddin ammunition dump next to his
family house, causing an explosion that killed Muhibullah's father,
grandfather, two sisters and three cousins. Muhibullah, then 7, lost two
fingers on his right hand and was blinded in the right eye.
the Soviet pullout in 1989, Muhibullah has survived rocket attacks in
Kabul when mujaheddin factions fought over control of the capital in the
lived through Taliban shellings of Kabul before it fell in 1996.
now he has escaped American bombings of Kabul.
accustomed to bombing," he said. "It's very sad how many bombs
have been dropped on us. It never seems to do any good. It's