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Suffolk woman returns from Peshawar

PUBLISHED: 05:27 18 October 2001 | UPDATED: 10:41 03 March 2010

A SUFFOLK woman is back home today after being stranded with her charity worker boyfriend in the tense Taliban stronghold of Peshawar.

Meredyth >>> Mellor and Nathan Bennett, along with a second man Joseph Seed, had been stuck in the North Pakistan city for over a week just before the air attacks by Allied forces on Afghanistan began.

A SUFFOLK woman is back home today after being stranded with her charity worker boyfriend in the tense Taliban stronghold of Peshawar.

Meredyth >>> Mellor and Nathan Bennett, along with a second man Joseph Seed, had been stuck in the North Pakistan city for over a week just before the air attacks by Allied forces on Afghanistan began.

The 22-year-old, from Kersey, her boyfriend, also 22, and Mr Seed, 23, were on the 12,000ft high Barowghit >>> Pass when they tuned into the World Service on their tiny, short wave radio to hear of the attacks on the United States on September 11.

"We'd travelled two-and-a-half days by horse to get there," said Meredyth.

"It was an incredibly remote mountain area. If we hadn't had the radio we wouldn't have heard about the attacks at all.

"At first our main concern was for one of Nathan's cousins who works in New York. It was only when Osama Bin Laden's name started to be mentioned that we realised that there might be implications for us."

The atmosphere in Peshawar, which is located at the foot of the Khyber Pass, has been increasingly tense. On the advice of the Foreign Office, almost all other British nationals have now left Pakistan.

Students and activists in the city have been chanting anti-American slogans, burning effigies of George Bush and ripping up American flags at street demonstrations.

Nathan, from Edinburgh, and Joseph told how they were travelling on horseback in remote mountains on the Pakistani-Afghan border, nearly three days' ride from the closest road, on the day of the attack on the World Trade Centre in New York.

Nathan said people in the remote mountain area didn't understand the seriousness of the attacks or the possible consequences.

He said: "When we told people they just didn't grasp it at all. A lot of them had hardly even been to the nearest town. There was no reaction at all.

"It was the middle of nowhere. Occasionally you came across one house. We had literally been drinking tea on mountain tops and when you are somewhere like that it is hard to believe anything is happening anywhere else."

Joseph, from Galloway, has been in Pakistan for five months teaching locals in remote areas to farm fish so they could be more self sufficient. Nathan and Meredyth, were also working as volunteers.

They had been in the border area on a trek after assessing possible sites for future projects just to the south.

Joseph said they decided to return to the UK after travelling back to the town of Chitral, also in North

Pakistan, (in North West Frontier Province) where they were based.

He said: "We were due to leave anyway but we brought the date forward because our families were worried.

"Chitral is near the border with Afghanistan so there was a worry about what might happen if the US bombed Afghanistan."

Meredyth added: "People in Chitral were bemused when we said we were leaving because we were worried about safety.

"They are very kind people known in other parts of Pakistan as 'clean heart' because they are so honest and hospitable. Everyone in Pakistan always wants a servant from Chitral because they have a reputation for never doing anything dishonest.

"They didn't understand why we felt we had to leave. They kept saying 'but nothing is going to happen here'.

"We were are all sad to leave especially as was such a beautiful place, full of high mountains and green valleys."

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