U.S. aid flight lands in Afghanistan bearing blankets, school supplies

Tuesday, February 12th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) _ One of the first planeloads of U.S. aid from a private organization landed in Kabul on Tuesday, filled with first aid supplies, warm blankets and colored pencils for children.

The aircraft carried $2 million in supplies divided almost equally between the Los Angeles-based Afghanistan Relief Organization and the Portland, Ore.-based Mercy Corps.

``It's quite a nice symbol of the American people's compassion for the Afghan people,'' said Laura Guimond, a Mercy Corps representative. ``The flight represents an important next step in the international commitment ... toward Afghanistan.''

U.N. organizations are already shipping tons of food and supplies into Afghanistan to feed millions of desperate people suffering from years of fighting and drought.

U.N. officials said Tuesday's delivery may be the first privately funded shipment to arrive because war and the poor condition of airports has made such deliveries difficult.

The private aid was purchased with donations and includes school kits with colored pencils, paper and chalk assembled by children in Issaquah, Wash.

The flight was paid for by Evergreen International Aviation, based in McMinnville, Ore., and was piloted by Ghulam Hussain, an Afghan-American who was born in Kabul.

The Boeing 747 landed at Kabul's main airport, devastated by years of war. Burned-out jet engines littered the brown grass beside the runway near the shattered tail of an Soviet airliner. British peacekeeping troops warned reporters not to step on the grass out of fear of land mines.

Hussain, who lives in Denver, was a pilot for Afghanistan's Ariana airlines before he fled the country following the 1979 Soviet invasion.

``Now that Afghanistan is free the whole world is rebuilding Afghanistan,'' he said. ``I'm very optimistic.''