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Tajikistan: First Group Of Refugees Returns Home

Dushanbe, 17 July 1997 (RFE/RL) - A group of 275 Tajik refugees returned home from Afghanistan today in the first repatriation after the Tajik government and the Islamic opposition signed peace accords last month.

Itar-tass said the refugees crossed today the Pyandzh river that forms the border with neighbouring Afghanistan.

Under the June 27 peace agreement some 20,000 refugees are planned to return at a rate of 900 per week.

Also today, the United Nations special envoy to Tajikistan told RFE/RL's service that arrangements have been made to start tomorrow the exchange of prisoners between the government and the Islamic opposition. Gerd Merrem said helicopters have been sent to the town of Tavil-Dara, where the exchange is scheduled to take place.

The exchange of 50 prisoners from each side was delayed for what were said to be "technical reasons" earlier this week.