140,000 Tajik refugees stranded on border

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The Independent Online
TASHKENT (Reuter) - Up to 140,000 refugees fleeing fighting in Tajikistan are stranded in the freezing cold near the Afghanistan border with no tents or blankets, an international relief official said yesterday. Hundreds of people in the impoverished Central Asian republic have been killed in fighting between former Communists and Islamic militants since President Rakhmon Nabiyev was ousted in September. Up to 500,000 people, 10 per cent of the population, are believed to have been displaced.

'We were told by Russian border guards that the number of refugees near the Afghan frontier has reached 140,000,' said Dieter Pfaff, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross mission in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe. The refugees are fleeing from fighting in the southern town of Shartuz about 25km (15 miles) north of the Afghan border, which is guarded by Russian troops.