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Afghanistan: UNHCR concerned at escalating violence in north

Briefing notes

Afghanistan: UNHCR concerned at escalating violence in north

2 July 2002

UNHCR welcomes the decision yesterday (Monday) by Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai to send a special delegation to northern Afghanistan to address the problem of harassment of ethnic minorities. The delegation, which left yesterday, will look at the situation especially in Faryab, Sar-i-Pul and Badghis provinces. We are urging the authorities to protect the security and safety of the civilian populations.

UNHCR is extremely concerned about escalating violence and deterioration in the human rights situation in some parts of northern and central Afghanistan. Although large areas in both regions remain accessible and generally peaceful, the situation in several parts of the two regions is extremely tense.

Scores of attacks against ethnic minorities in Faryab, Balkh and Sar-i-Pul provinces have reportedly resulted in fatalities and destruction of property. There has also been an upsurge in criminal activities - including robberies, rapes and murders. Renewed factional fighting is not only hampering the return of refugees but also starting to provoke new displacement. Due to the precarious security situation, we have stopped assisting displaced people to return from Herat to the volatile areas.

The security situation in the two districts of Kahmard and Saighan in the central province of Bamiyan is also deteriorating. Last week, there was some intense fighting in Kahmard district resulting in the deaths of a number of civilians. The situation is extremely volatile, with reports of people fleeing to Shaighan district - as well as incidents of human rights violations in several villages in Kahmard district including Kakhul, Palenbagh, Dudaru and Khuhisan.

UNHCR has taken measures to strengthen its presence in the northern and central parts of the country, with protection staff in five separate locations and on standby to return to a sixth, once the security situation permits.

A total of 1,137,000 Afghan refugees have returned with UNHCR's help since the beginning of March, including 88,000 from Iran and 1,038,000 from Pakistan.