At least 347 refugees from Afghanistan have crossed into the Central Asian country of Tajikistan over two days, fleeing sweeping gains by Taliban fighters as foreign forces withdraw.
State information agency Khovar, citing 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 draw down.
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,” Khovar said in a statement.
It 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 agency RIA Novosti that Moscow was “closely monitoring” the situation at Afghanistan’s borders with Central Asian countries.
But he added the Taliban reconfirmed it would not launch attacks on Afghanistan’s neighbours.
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 seizure of power by violence and force. It will not legitimise such actions.
— Dr. S. Jaishankar (@DrSJaishankar) July 14, 2021
Also on Wednesday, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) foreign ministers called on the Afghan sides to stop violence and start peace talks about the future of the country.
In a joint statement following a meeting in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, the SCO foreign ministers voiced concern over the rising concentration of outlaw and armed groups in the north of the country.
“One of the most important factors for preserving and strengthening security and stability in the SCO space is the early settlement of the situation in Afghanistan,” the diplomats said.
They also prompted the Afghan government to increase efforts aiming for peace restoration, economic development of the country, and countering “terrorism” and drug crime.
India’s Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said on Twitter: “The world is against seizure of power by violence and force. It will not legitimise such actions.”
Recently, a video emerged that the CNN broadcaster said it had verified, showing a group of Afghan commandos being gunned down by the Taliban in June after surrendering.
On Wednesday, the US State Department spokesman, Ned Price, told reporters: “The video, which, I should say, we don’t have any reason to doubt, depicts horrifying scenes. The killing – in this case, the slaughter – of unarmed individuals is – it’s an atrocious act. It’s an outrageous sight and, of course, we condemn it.”