First aid convoy is robbed on its way to Kabul

War on Terrorism: Aid delivery
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The Independent Online

In the first delivery of aid to the Afghan capital since the flight of the Taliban, the United Nations handed out blankets, tents and food on Wednesday to people made homeless by the American bombing campaign.

But after the murder on Monday of four journalists between Jalalabad and Kabul, the continuing lawlessness of Afghanistan's roads and the difficulties of the aid operation, were underlined again yesterday when a UN food convoy was robbed of 125 tonnes of food aid intended for victims of the war.

The convoy had travelled from Quetta in Pakistan via Kandahar. The incident happened near Shindand, about 60 miles south of Herat, the convoy's intended destination. After the robbery, the convoy went back to Kandahar.

Concerns over security mean there is no hope of international aid agencies reaching the tens of thousands of civilians stranded in areas where fighting is still taking place, such as the south, and the northern region around the besieged city of Kunduz.

In other areas, despite the robbery, the United Nations' attempt to get its food aid programme into gear after the fall of Kabul appeared to be working. Eric Falt, the UN's press spokesman in Kabul, announced that a first convoy of six trucks of food had reached Jalalabad on Monday evening, and 48 trucks loaded with 1,300 tons of food ­ "enough for 160,000 people for one month" ­ left Peshawar for Kabul on Tuesday. Another 68 trucks set off from Peshawar yesterday.

New food routes have also been opened into the so-called "hunger belt" of northern Afghanistan from Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Mr Falt said 3 million people in the area were in an "extremely vulnerable situation". He added: "The UN is doing its best to expand the scope of the help it is providing and redouble its efforts."

A spokesman for the UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency, said a large aid shipment had left Iran for Afghanistan after being delayed for several days because of safety fears.

The 15-truck convoy, carrying the first joint aid shipment organised by the UNHCR and Iran's Red Crescent relief agency, left for the western Afghan city of Herat.

The first UN aid flight to Afghanistan since 11 September touched down in Kabul carrying biscuits and non-food humanitarian aid supplied by UN agencies, as well as UN computer equipment. The aircraft, a Lockheed C-130, took off from Islamabad.

Earlier aid shipments were brought in on passenger flights carrying UN personnel. The UN is continuing to assess airfields, mostly in neighbouring Tajikistan, from which to operate air drop flights into northeast Afghanistan when snow makes roads impassable.

With the departure of the Taliban, women have gone back to work at the UN's World Food Programme in Kabul, which means that the food needs of vulnerable women can again be assessed. Under the Taliban's rules, only men could be employed, and they were barred from dealing with the women the food programme needed to help.