At least 347 Afghan refugees have entered the central Asian country of Tajikistan in two days, fleeing the massive gains of Taliban fighters as foreign forces withdraw.
State news agency Khovar, citing Tajik border guards, said on Wednesday that the refugees “fled the Taliban for their lives,” adding that two babies had died crossing the border.
In recent weeks, fighters have brought vast swathes of the country under their control as foreign troops withdraw.
In June, they seized Shir Khan Bandar’s main Afghan border post with Tajikistan in the far north of Afghanistan, about 50 km (30 miles) from the town of Kunduz.
On Wednesday, they claimed to have taken the strategic border post of Spin Boldak on the border with Pakistan.
The Afghan Interior Ministry, however, insisted that the armed group’s attack had been repelled and that government forces were in control.
Tajikistan said the refugees, including about 64 boys and 113 girls, had come from Afghanistan’s Badakhshan province, taking herds of cattle with them.
“Tajik border guards, guided by humanistic and good neighborly principles, allowed Afghan refugees to enter,” Khovar said in a statement.
He said the group of Afghans was hosted at two sites in the mountainous region of Murghab, east of the former Soviet country.
Border guards said they confiscated more than 3.5 kg (7.7 pounds) of narcotics from Afghans crossing Tajikistan.
The refugees brought cattle, including 300 yaks, three camels and 30 horses.
Border guards said the situation along the common border with Afghanistan was under control.
Earlier on Wednesday, Kremlin envoy to Tajikistan Zamir Kabulov told Russian news agency RIA Novosti that Moscow was “closely monitoring” the situation at Afghanistan’s borders with countries in Central Asia.
But he added that the Taliban have reconfirmed that they will not launch attacks against Afghanistan’s neighbors.
The challenge is to act seriously and sincerely on these beliefs. Because there are forces at work with a very different agenda.
The world is against seizing power by violence and force. It will not legitimize such actions.
– Dr S. Jaishankar (@DrSJaishankar) July 14, 2021
Also on Wednesday, foreign ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) called on the Afghan parties to end the violence and start peace talks on the country’s future.
In a joint statement following a meeting in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, SCO foreign ministers expressed concern over the growing concentration of outlaws and armed groups in the north of the country.
“One of the most important factors in preserving and strengthening security and stability in the SCO area is the swift resolution of the situation in Afghanistan,” diplomats said.
They also urged the Afghan government to redouble its efforts to restore peace, economic development in the country and fight “terrorism” and drug-related crime.
Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said on Twitter: “The world is against seizing power through violence and force. It will not legitimize such actions.
Recently, a video emerged which broadcaster CNN said it verified, showing a group of Afghan commandos gunned down by the Taliban in June after surrendering.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters on Wednesday, “The video, which, I must say, we have no reason to doubt, portrayed gruesome scenes. The killing – in this case, the slaughter – of unarmed individuals is – it is an atrocious act. It is an outrageous sight and, of course, we condemn it.