Over 300 Afghans flee into Tajikistan as Taliban advances

A volley of bullets ricocheted off the Humvees' metal armour. Gunners atop the Humvees swivelled wildly, aiming fire at suspected Taliban fighters who were hard to see.

KABUL: At least 347 refugees from Afghanistan have crossed into the Central Asian country of Tajikistan over two days as Taliban fighters may sweeping gains across the country.

Tajikistan border guards said on Wednesday the refugees “fled from the Taliban to save their lives”, adding two babies died during the border crossing. The fighters in recent weeks have brought huge swaths of the country under their control as foreign troops withdraw.

In June, they seized Afghanistan’s main Shir Khan Bandar border crossing with Tajikistan in the far north of Afghanistan about 50km (30 miles) from Kunduz city. On Wednesday, they claimed to have taken the strategic border crossing of Spin Boldak on the frontier with Pakistan. The Afghan interior ministry, however, insisted the armed group’s attack was repelled and government forces had control.

Tajikistan said the refugees, who included about 64 boys and 113 girls, had crossed from Afghanistan’s Badakhshan province, bringing with them herds of livestock.

“Tajik border guards, guided by humanistic principles and good neighbourliness, allowed Afghan refugees to enter,” a state agency said in a statement. I t said the group of Afghans were being accommodated in two sites in the mountainous Murghab region in the east of the ex-Soviet country.

The border guard said they confiscated more than 3.5kg (7.7 pounds) of narcotics from the Afghans crossing into Tajikistan. The refugees brought livestock, including 300 yaks, three camels and 30 horses. The border guards said the situation along the shared frontier with Afghanistan was under control.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Kremlin’s envoy to Tajikistan, Zamir Kabulov, told Russian news that Moscow was “closely monitoring” the situation at Afghanistan at borders with Central Asian countries. He added the Taliban reconfirmed it would not launch attacks on Afghanistan’s neighbours.