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Afghanistan: ICRC visits detainees in Mazar-i-Sharif

22-11-2001 News Release 01/46

In the past week, ICRC staff have been visiting people detained in Mazar-i-Sharif by the United Front. A total of 250 persons have been registered in the sites to which the ICRC has had access. Staff are in contact with the local authorities with a view to visiting other places of detention.

" For the time being we have limited personnel,” said Olivier Martin, head of the ICRC’s sub- delegation in Mazar-i-Sharif.  “But we hope that with the arrival of new delegates in the coming days we will be able to step up our detainee-welfare work. "

In observance of Ramadan, the detainees receive hot meals and water after 5.00 p.m. The ICRC has been distributing clothes, blankets and hygiene kits during its visits. The Afghan Red Crescent Society, meanwhile, goes daily to the places of detention to provide basic medical care. To date, six detainees in need of more sophisticated treatment have been transferred by the ICRC to hospital.

The detainees have also had the opportunity to write Red Cross messages (brief personal messages) to their families. These will be distributed as soon as possible through the international network of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Meanwhile, the ICRC team in Mazar-i-Sharif is continuing the work of assessing the needs of the population in and around the city. Medical supplies have been distributed to health-care facilities. Sites where displaced people have taken refuge have been identified with a view to providing basic relief. " We are expecting a total of 59 truckloads of supplies,” said Martin. “Forty-eight trucks have already left Turkmenistan, where they were loaded, and should be arriving later today with food to start much-needed distributions to 70,000displaced persons. "

The ICRC was called upon to act as a neutral intermediary between various groups in Afghanistan. And recently it forwarded messages between a local commander and various embassies in Islamabad, which led to the successful evacuation by United States forces of the eight aid workers who had been held by the Taliban authorities. The ICRC also evacuated the mortal remains of the four foreign journalists who were killed on the road between Jalalabad and Kabul. Their bodies were taken by road to Islamabad where they were handed over to family members or their representatives.

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