Pakistan border guards fire shots at angry Afghan refugees demand entry

Sunday, October 21st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CHAMAN, Pakistan (AP) _ Pakistani border guards opened fire Sunday to force back a crowd of hundreds of Afghans demanding to be allowed into the country. Doctors said a 13-year-old boy was wounded.

Pakistan relaxed border controls Friday to allow several thousand Afghans to enter the country without proper papers but clamped down again Sunday despite an estimated tens of thousands of people trying to escape U.S. bombing around Kandahar.

As the crowd surged forward and began throwing stones, Pakistani border guards opened fire. Officials said they fired in the air, but doctors at a local hospital said one boy was struck by a bullet.

His condition was not life-threatening, the doctors said.

Two border guards were slightly injured by stones, police said.

U.N. workers say 10,000 to 15,000 Afghan civilians have crowded into the border ``no man's land'' between Afghanistan and Pakistan, seeking escape from the two-week-old U.S.-led bombardment.

Families on Sunday squatted in the dust, or sought shade under buses and old cars, waiting in hopes of getting across.

Many of those who managed to push through and enter Pakistan ended up stopped at a Pakistani checkpoint about three miles south of Chaman, where authorities inspected papers and decided who would be permitted to continue.

Those who were turned back simply sneaked by through the nearby hills out of sight of the checkpoint guards and then returned to the main highway south toward Quetta.

The number of refugees has swelled as U.S. bombing intensified over the last week.

Pakistan allowed no refugees through Sunday, after letting about 5,000 cross the previous day. That was the biggest single-day influx since the U.S. military campaign opened Oct. 7.

Afghanistan's neighbors have closed their borders to Afghan refugees, after previously taking in millions during two previous decades of conflict in that country.

U.N. officials renewed appeals Sunday for neighboring countries to open their frontiers on an emergency basis.