Afghanistan: Kandahar expatriates withdrawn
On UN instructions, UNHCR withdrew expatriate staff from Kandahar, Afghanistan, after its offices were raided and damaged by armed Taliban soldiers on Monday. The soldiers said they were searching for opposition leader Ismail Khan, who reportedly escaped from a Kandahar prison last weekend. This incident coincides with the beginning of an organized repatriation operation of Afghan refugees from Iran and Pakistan. In view of this new development, UNHCR has decided to suspend any repatriations to the Kandahar area until expatriate staff are back and activities to assist and monitor the reintegration of returnees can be resumed. UNHCR has signed agreements with the governments of Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan for the voluntary return of at least 200,000 Afghan refugees to their places of origin this year. There are still an estimated 1.4 million Afghan refugees in Iran and 1.2 million in Pakistan.