Bodies of 45 suffocated Afghans repatriated
Added under Afghanistan/Pakistan
The bodies of 45 Afghans who suffocated to death in a human smugglers' container in Pakistan arrived back in Afghanistan on Monday en route to their homes, officials said.
The corpses, found in the container on Saturday along with 65 survivors, were driven across the border in a convoy of vehicles after poor weather scuppered plans to fly them to the Afghan capital Kabul, they said.
"Pakistani authorities handed us 45 bodies," border police official Mohammad Raziq said in the small town of Spin Boldak, which adjoins Pakistan's southwestern Baluchistan province.
The truck container stuffed with around 110 people was found about 20 kilometres (15 miles) south of Quetta, capital of oil and gas rich Baluchistan which borders Afghanistan and Iran, police said.
Officials believed the truck was bound for Iran.
Most of the men were from northern Afghanistan, including Kapisa and Jawzjan provinces, Afghan foreign ministry spokesman Sultan Ahmad Baheen told AFP.
The bodies would be driven to the southern city of Kandahar and then flown to Kabul, officials said.
An advisor to Afghan President Hamid Karzai told reporters from Spin Boldak that the incident would be investigated in coordination with Pakistani authorities and those responsible would be punished.
"We'll go to Pakistan and talk to the survivors to find out what had exactly happened. The culprits will be brought to justice," said Moheeddin Baluch, head of an Afghan delegation appointed to handle the case.
Karzai said Sunday that he was deeply saddened by the deaths of the group, who were likely heading to Iran for to look for work.
He also "demanded people avoid dangerous illegal migration and not be deceived by smugglers."
Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency registered a case against an Afghan man, Gul Agha, who according to survivors charged 30,000 rupees (375 dollars) each to take them to Iran, FIA official Shahab Azeem said.
The agency, which deals with matters relating to foreigners, had also detained 41 people, another FIA official Mohammad Aamir said.
"Another 16 who are receiving treatment will also be taken into custody for violating foreigners' act," he said.
They would be produced in court, which may free them after imposing a fine or sentence them to up to one month, Aamir added.
Thousands of Afghans sneak abroad every year to find work, with jobs scarce in their impoverished homeland.
In October last year, Taliban fighters killed around 27 young men from central Afghanistan who were travelling by bus to Iran.
The men, some of them beheaded, were killed in the southern province of Kandahar where a vicious Taliban insurgency is strong. The Taliban had alleged they were new army recruits.
Pakistani police said three of the dead found in Baluchistan were teenagers aged between 13 and 15, and that another 45 people found unconscious in the container were admitted to hospital.
Senior police official Wazir Khan Nasir said the driver abandoned the truck, and fled after the condition of people inside the container deteriorated.
Survivor Nizar Ahmed, 15, told AFP from hospital that he came from the province of Paktia in eastern Afghanistan.
"We have all come from Afghanistan and we were going to Iran," he said.
Before the bodies were driven to Afghanistan, funeral prayers were offered in a Quetta Hospital by a Muslim cleric and attended by about 100 doctors, hospital staff and local people, an AFP reporter said.