Taliban threaten to kill remaining U.N. workers in Afghanistan
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) – The Taliban have threatened to execute any U.N. worker who uses computers and communications equipment in Afghanistan, forcing a near halt to the remaining relief work in the country, U.N. officials said Monday.
The militia raided U.N. offices in Kabul, the capital, and Kandahar, where the Taliban leadership is based, during the weekend and sealed their satellite telephones, walkie-talkies, computers and vehicles to bar them from use, according to U.N. spokeswoman Stephanie Bunker.
”They warned our staff that if they use these things they will face execution,” said Gordon Weiss, the spokesman for UNICEF in Islamabad.
Also Monday, the World Food Program, which assists millions of poor Afghans, said in a statement released at the U.N. headquarters in New York that the Taliban had also seized food from the group’s offices in the southern city of Kandahar.
There was no immediate comment from the Taliban.
After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, the United Nations removed its foreign staffers from Afghanistan for their safety but left behind Afghan employees. The U.N. workers are one of the last providers of subsidized food and health care to the impoverished and war-ravaged country.
”We are worried about the safety of our remaining workers there and concerned about the fate of our programs,” Weiss said. ”Life will become more miserable for the more than 1 million people displaced because of drought and civil war.”
Bunker said that without communications, relief operations would be impossible.
”The U.N. has ordered its staff to obey the Taliban directive to avoid risking their lives,” she said. ”We have requested the Taliban to allow at least one high frequency radio transmitter” in cities with U.N. operations.
U.S. forces have begun mobilizing in the Persian Gulf for an expected attack on Afghanistan to punish the hard-line Taliban government for refusing to extradite Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect in the deadly suicide attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Tens of thousands of Afghans have fled their homes in areas that could be targeted by U.S. forces and have been stranded along the country’s borders with Pakistan, Iran and Tajikistan, which were recently closed at Washington’s request.
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