South Asia quake: Taleban urges aid agencies 'not to hold back'
LEADERS of the Taleban insurgent group urged aid agencies yesterday to push ahead in delivering emergency relief supplies after a major earthquake hit remote mountainous regions of northern Afghanistan and Pakistan, killing at least 350 people.
Large swathes of Badakhshan, the remote province where the epicentre is located, and other quake-hit areas are effectively controlled by the Taleban, posing a huge challenge to any official aid efforts, reported Agence France-Presse.
But the Taleban, which has stepped up its Islamist insurgency against the Western-backed government in Kabul this year, indicated it would not stand in the way of aid efforts, Reuters reported.
"The Islamic Emirate calls on our good-willed countrymen and charitable organisations not to hold back in providing shelter, food and medical supplies to the victims," the group said in a condolence message to quake victims, using its formal name.
"And it similarly orders its mujahideen (fighters) in the affected areas to lend their complete help."
The fragility of the region's security situation, however, quickly became apparent when seven Pakistani soldiers were killed yesterday in the South Waziristan tribal region by a mortar fired from Afghanistan.
Pakistan's seven tribal districts near the Afghan border are rife with homegrown insurgents and are strongholds of Taleban and Al-Qaeda operatives.
Authorities confirmed 241 deaths in Pakistan from Monday's quake yesterday, while in Afghanistan, the death toll had climbed to more than 115.
The toll was expected to rise as search teams reach remote areas cut off by the quake.
The United States and Iran were among countries that offered humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan.
In Kabul, Nato officials said they were helping Afghan security forces plan relief operations.
In Pakistan, the country's well-equipped military was heavily involved in relief efforts.