Looters pillage medical aid compounds

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The Independent Online

A major international humanitarian organisation today shut down medical relief programmes in two Afghan cities after armed gangs looted them of medicine, equipment and vehicles.

The pillaging of the Medecins sans Frontieres compounds was the latest in a series of attacks on the dwindling relief operations still trying to help Afghan civilians. An official of the charity said Monday's attacks were in the southern city of Kandahar and northern Mazar-e-Sharif.

Representatives of the Human Rights Watch pressure group said Afghanistan's ruling Taliban militia and foreign Arabs apparently linked to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network were behind some of the attacks. Human Rights Watch claims there have been several other attacks on offices of UN relief agencies, land mine removal programmes and the Islamic Relief aid group.

Today Taliban militia returned one of two World Food Programme warehouses commandeered by their armed fighters two days earlier, said an official with the UN agency. Grain in the warehouse in Kabul apparently remained intact, but there was no word on the status of a WFP warehouse in Kandahar, also taken over by Taliban fighters at gunpoint Tuesday.