Afghan government officials were quoted Monday as saying that last week's earthquake killed more than 1,000 people in that country, but relief workers and rebels suggested the toll was exaggerated.
"The government in Kabul just wants to get financial and humanitarian aid," said Minhaj, a spokesman for the Afghan guerrillas headquartered in the Pakistani border city of Peshawar.In Pakistan, government officials said more than 300 people were killed in Friday's quake, which registered 6.8 on the Richter scale. A quake of that magnitude is considered severe and can cause heavy, widespread damage.
Reports of casualties in Afghanistan have varied widely since the quake jolted much of central Asia before dawn Friday.
The official Kabul radio initially reported five deaths but has made no mention of a death toll since. The Muslim guerrillas fighting to topple the Afghan government have put the figure at about 90. International aid workers say at least 200, possibly as many as 400, may have been killed.
News reports published Monday in Pakistan's English-language newspapers quoted Afghan government officials as saying more than 1,000 were killed in that neighboring country.
One U.N. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that "the figure seems a little high, but it's impossible to know."
The quake flattened hundreds of mud homes in the mountainous region along the border with Pakistan. When it struck, many people were sleeping.
The reports quoted the Kabul government as saying that the hardest hit areas were the border provinces of Kunar, Nangarhar and Badakhshan. All three provinces are controlled by the guerrillas, who have refused to allow the government to distribute humanitarian aid in territory they control.
Unusually heavy snowstorms have blocked the mountain passes into the areas hardest hit by the earthquake. Relief workers say it will take days and possibly weeks to find out the number of casualties and the extent of destruction.