DUSHANBE: Tajikistan said on Wednesday that almost 350 refugees from Afghanistan had crossed into the Central Asian country, fleeing sweeping gains by Taliban as foreign forces withdraw.

Border guards in the ex-Soviet country said those feeling included 177 minors, and that two babies had died during the journey to the mountainous and impoverished country.

The Taliban’s offensive has seen a stream of Afghans make their way across the border and earlier this month more than 1,000 government troops fled to Tajikistan after the fighters seized a border crossing between the countries.

The militants in recent weeks have brought huge swathes of Afghanistan under their control as foreign troops withdraw, including the county’s main Shir Khan Bandar border crossing with Tajikistan.

The border guards said the refugees who arrived over the last two days included some 64 boys and 113 girls. They had crossed from Badakhshan province, bringing with them herds of livestock.

Moscow, an important power broker in the region, was closely watching the offensive, concerned about the security of countries in ex-Soviet Central Asia where it maintains military bases.

On Wednesday, about 1,000 troops at Russia’s military base in Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe took part in drills.

Published in Dawn, July 15th, 2021

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