Rockets blast Kabul food queue: Long vigil in Afghanistan for the supply trucks that cannot get through

AT LEAST six people were killed and 30 wounded yesterday as rockets fired by Afghan anti-government forces fell on people waiting for the first distribution of food aid to reach the capital in five weeks.

The salvo of cluster rockets, which scatter bomblets over a wide area, landed in mid-afternoon on Khair Kana, an outlying northern district to which hundreds of thousands have fled during the latest outbreak of fighting among Afghanistan's myriad factions. A large crowd of displaced people had gathered outside the Abu Muslim mosque, where a private aid organisation, CARE International, was distributing two truckloads of wheat flour brought in by a United Nations convoy at the weekend.

Several survivors blamed the attack on Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, whose forces have been besieging Kabul since January. Although the city is constantly under fire, cluster rockets are rarely used and they believed the Hizbe Islami leader might have been seeking to disrupt the food handout. Since the beginning of February Mr Hekmatyar has been preventing food reaching the capital in an apparent attempt to increase the pressure on President Burhanuddin Rabbani to resign.

He seized the UN convoy last Thursday and only allowed half its cargo - three trucks - to cross into the government-held area after what he said was a personal appeal from the UN Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali.

If Mr Hekmatyar was trying to discredit the UN, yesterday's events certainly played into his hands. The scene at Khair Kana had been peaceful earlier in the day. According to the CARE supervisor, Abdul Majid, this was because he had managed to eke out three truckloads received before the blockade took hold.

At Karte Parwan, however, a wealthier area, no food had been distributed for weeks and a near-riot broke out when the third truck was sent there. News that food had arrived brought several hundred people to the CARE depot, and a thin line of mujahedin was swept away as they burst into the yard where the sacks had been piled up. One man fired a burst into the air without effect, and the supervisor, Ayoub Maftoun, was mobbed. After half an hour of chaos, he announced that no flour would be distributed until the next day, but this failed to disperse most of the crowd.

In the afternoon, as Kabul's opposing forces resumed their bombardment of each other's mountaintop positions, Mr Maftoun gave up. The system of ration cards was abandoned, and women were formed into groups of 10 to receive one sack each.

Several people among the mainly middle-class crowd bitterly criticised the UN for failing to impose peace. One even blamed Britain: Gulam Nabi, whose brother was a minister in the former Communist regime, claimed the British 'haven't forgotten the three defeats they suffered in Afghanistan' and were discouraging any UN action. Mr Nabi had been driven out of Mikrorayon, a Soviet-built housing estate for Communist loyalists. The Uzbek militia of Abdul Rashid Dostam, who precipitated the renewed struggle for power by switching to Mr Hekmatyar's side, took the chance to loot and burn the apartment blocks. 'Last week I sold my last carpet,' he said. 'Now I have nothing left to sell.'

Although the anti-government alliance is unlikely to starve Kabul into submission - plenty of food has been smuggled in, even if the number who can afford it is shrinking - the blockade adds to the misery of a city whose heart has been torn out. More than 1,000 have been killed and 12,000 injured since fighting began on New Year's Day.

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
The Queen and the letter sent to Charlie
football
Arts and Entertainment
Eurovision Song Contest 2015
EurovisionGoogle marks the 2015 show
News
Two lesbians hold hands at a gay pride parade.
peopleIrish journalist shares moving story on day of referendum
Arts and Entertainment
<p>
<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
</p>
<p>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
<p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
<p>
I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
booksKathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
News
Liz Kendall played a key role in the introduction of the smoking ban
newsLiz Kendall: profile
Life and Style
techPatent specifies 'anthropomorphic device' to control media devices
Voices
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits
voicesAndrew Grice: Prime Minister can talk 'one nation Conservatism' but putting it into action will be tougher
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?