US Raids: Aid workers trapped in Taliban bastion

Jason Burke, one of the few Western journalists in Afghanistan, on volunteers' fears of a backlash
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ABOUT 100 foreign aid workers, including at least a dozen Britons, were still waiting yesterday to be evacuated from Afghanistan as fears grew of a possible backlash from locals over the United States strikes.

In the southern city of Kandahar, headquarters of the ruling Taliban militia, the streets were quiet despite rumours of an American invasion. More than 20 aid workers remained trapped in the town, sheltering in the Red Cross and United Nations compounds. Both compounds are equipped with food and water but neither has the security to withstand an attack from either the locals or from the Taliban.

Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban, has a house only 300 metres from the UN compound, which was built for him by Osama bin Laden. The two are close friends and Mr bin Laden's daughter is married to Mr Omar.

Aid workers were anxiously awaiting a UN flight to safety in Pakistan when a flight yesterday was cancelled.

A rally held yesterday in Kandahar against foreign intervention in Afghanistan went off peacefully.

Foreigners in Kandahar hope that the Taliban will not be hostile and will, as the UN has requested, guarantee their security. The atmosphere, however, remains extremely tense.