86 Afghan athletes, officials found shelter after fleeing Taliban threat

The Afghan Olympic Committee said Monday that 86 athletes, officials and their families have been sheltered in a camp near the border with Pakistan, where they are awaiting the end of the Taliban’s five-day self-imposed exile.

The athletes, family members and officials from the Tajikistan-based amateur boxing, wrestling and judo federations have fled the north-western city of Herat, where they fled after being threatened by Taliban members during an election campaign visit by President Ashraf Ghani in June.

“They were forced to run when a 10-year-old girl refused to remove her hijab,” committee head Ahmad Samad Akbari told the Associated Press.

Also being sheltered are 41 scouts who came from Herat and about 30 members of the Afghanistan National Institute of Sport in Kabul. Two soldiers were also among those taken from their barracks in Herat and brought to Mazar-i-Sharif. The camp has also taken in two members of Afghan’s national rugby team, a Kabul police officer and three children.

Capt. Abdul Salaam Shah, head of the Taliban’s Herat cell, told The Associated Press by telephone that all 117 of those who fled are good Taliban who had paid dues and enjoyed proper controls in their local organizations.

Still, an uneasy calm has prevailed in Herat since about 50 members of the Afghan National Army and 10 Afghan civilian border guards were ambushed at a checkpoint by about 20 fighters loyal to Sheik Sayed Nadir Amiri, the former governor of Herat, said Tolo News, an Afghan broadcaster.

About 10 of the Afghan troops were killed in the attack and another 20 were injured, Tolo reported.

Militants attacking police or Afghan army checkpoints are not unheard of in Herat, the spiritual home of the Taleban. However, such fierce clashes have rarely occurred, with the frequent attacks usually targeting police forces and government officials.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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