In Pictures: Pakistan's troubled Tirah Valley

Displaced in rebel violence, locals return only to find bombed out homes, burnt down schools and destroyed markets.

| | War & Conflict, Pakistan, Asia, Tehreek e-Taliban

Tirah Valley - a main town of the volatile Khyber tribal area in northern Pakistan - was once a safe haven and a battleground for various armed groups.

It had remained untouched by the government presence until Pakistan's army entered the area in 2003 - first time since her independence in 1947 - to fight the rebels.

The area - remote yet strategic gateway that links Afghanistan's northern corridor to Pakistan - had been a theatre of battles between the Pakistani army and rebels.

Life in Tirah Valley is now returning to a semblance of normalcy, but people are wary of the future.

"At least 1,800 people have been killed in the past one year," says Niaz Khan, a prominent tribal leader in Khyber Agency.

Remnants of the war can still be visible as row upon rows of homes in this mountainous region lay in ruins.

Ghulam Habib, the additional political agent of Khyber Agency, says more than 80,000 people were displaced in March last year alone as a result of the fighting between three main armed groups, the Lashkar-e-Islam, the Ansar-ul-Islam and the Pakistani Taliban.

"At least 30,000 students are out of school here," Ateeq-ur-Rehman, an education officer in the region, told Al Jazeera. He said that many schools were deliberately targeted and bombed by the armed groups.

Minority groups were the worst affected during years of conflict.

Atam Singh from the minority Sikh community said he had not seen fighting like this before.

"I have been living in Tirah for 40 years now, and this past year was by far the worst. Three hundred Sikh families fled the area and had to leave everything behind," Singh told Al Jazeera.

A majority of displaced people have come back to their homes, but they fear that the armed groups may return.

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