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    AFGHAN REFUGEES - A HARD WAY BACK HOME

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    ISLAMABAD, March 8 (RIA Novosti's Vladimir Shreter) - A group of 339 Afghan refugees failed to cross the border with Afghanistan because of clashes that erupted between two Pushtun tribal groups, a press release issued by the office of the Directorate of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said.

    A truck motorcade emerged from the Shalman camp, which is to be closed this month, and passed Peshawar (the capital of the Northwestern border province of Pakistan with a predominantly Pushtun population), when it was stopped by local Pushtuns, who had blocked the road. The disturbances had been caused by the kidnapping of a few children by unidentified persons, but Afghan refugees had nothing to do with that.

    To avoid the worst possible outcome of the incident, the refugees had to return to the camp.

    The UN closes this camp because of the lack of drinking water in the region. About half of the Shalman residents said they wished to return home, and the rest will be transferred to other camps.

    The motorcade will start its journey to Afghanistan again on Tuesday, the press release said.

    Voluntary repatriation of Afghans from Pakistan began this year on March 2. On the whole, the UN plans to assist in the return of 400,000 Afghans.

    After the fall of the Taliban regime late in 2001 the UN has helped over 1.9 million Afghans to come back home from Pakistan. At least 1.1 million Afghans still remain in 200 refugee camps.

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