Hundreds of war-displaced Afghans return east
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Hundreds of internally displaced Afghans who had taken refuge in the capital left for their homes in the country's eastern provinces Thursday, almost a year after the war that forced them to flee ended.
Millions migrated inside Afghanistan over two decades of bitter fighting during the US-led military occupation, which ended as the Taliban returned to power last August.
Many flocked to major cities such as Kabul where air strikes, bombings and firefights were less common than in rural Afghanistan, which has historically been the hardline Islamists' power base.
"It's a delightful day, we're returning to our houses and our homelands," said Sardar Wali, 45, a farmer from Laghman province who fled to Kabul months before the Taliban stormed back to power.
"Even if our house was hit by mortars and has been damaged we will build it again," he told AFP.
More than 30 buses were chartered to transport men, women and children back to their homes, while each family was gifted $200 to buy food and other essentials, the UNHCR said.
Many who took refuge in Kabul lived in makeshift tents or out in the open, while others moved into rented homes only to realise they could not afford the expense.
"It was just two to three months back that we rented a house," said Pari Gul, who also opted to return to her home under Thursday's UN-backed programme.
"Our children are collecting plastics and my husband is old. We can't afford the cost of living here."
Afghanistan's economy is in ruins, with tens of thousands of people losing their jobs after the international community halted aid to the country in the wake of the US withdrawal.
An estimated 3.5 million people are still "internally displaced", according to the UNHCR.
"Everyone loves to live in their own village," said Huma, 36, as she waited in a queue to take her cash allowance.
"We are leaving thinking that at least we will be headed home."