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Tajik Refugees Die in Afgan Battle

October 3, 1997

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) _ A bomb slammed into a U.N.-run camp for Tajik refugees in northern Afghanistan, killing two refugees, wounding 15 others and sending as many as 6,000 fleeing for safety, U.N. officials said today.

The camp, located in the center of a ferocious battle between Afghanistan’s Taliban religious army and a northern-based opposition alliance, houses thousands of refugees who fled a civil war in their homeland of neighboring Tajikistan.

Communications with northern Afghanistan is sporadic and Sri Wijeratne, a U.N. official in neighboring Pakistan, said it’s not known whether it was a Taliban or opposition bomb that hit the camp on Thursday.

Nearly two weeks ago, the U.N. withdrew its international staff from northern Afghanistan after Taliban soldiers began advancing on the northern opposition stronghold of Mazar-e-Sharif and opposition soldiers inside the city went on a rampage, looting U.N. offices and intimidating staff.

It’s believed that as many as 15 foreign nationals are still in the beleaguered city, pounded daily by Taliban bombs.

The Taliban control the southern two-thirds of Afghanistan, where they have imposed their strict version of Islamic law, banning women from working and ordering men to pray regularly. The Islamic army captured the capital, Kabul, last year.

Several fighter jets took off from Kabul this morning, apparently headed toward the front line, some 180 miles away in northern Afghanistan.

Iran Radio on Thursday accused the Taliban of bombing the U.N.’s northern refugee camp, but the Taliban said its planes were hitting only military targets.

Neither claims could be independently confirmed.

Meanwhile, Wijeratne said as many as 6,000 refugees from neighboring Tajikistan were fleeing the refugee camp and trying to return to their homeland.

``We are in a very desperate situation because we can’t send anyone up there,″ said Wijeratne.

The U.N. has sent some trucks from Kunduz city to try to intercept the refugees.

Most of the refugees fled Tajikistan more than three years ago as fighting raged between Islamic militants and the pro-Moscow government.

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