[QODLink]
Central & South Asia
'Scores of Taliban' die in fighting
Pakistan says troops closing in on Swat's main town as they target fighters' hideouts.
Last Modified: 25 Jan 2010 15:45 GMT

Thousands of displaced people are facing an
uncertain future in refugee camps [AFP]

Pakistan's military has continued its offensive against the Taliban amid confirmation from the US that it has shared data from its unmanned drones with Islamabad.

At least 124 suspected Taliban fighters have been killed by Pakistani government forces in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) over 24 hours, the military said late on Thursday.

The army shelled suspected Taliban bases in the districts of Swat and Lower Dir on Thursday, marking the 18th successive day of attacks by the military in NWFP.

"Militant hideouts were targeted in Dir and Swat and many of their hideouts were destroyed in mountains," a security official told the AFP news agency on condition of anonymity.

Another military official said troops were 16km from Swat's main town of Mingora, where Taliban fighters are in control.

The military has released a video showing the bombing of what it calls Taliban targets.

'Overwhelming' refugee crisis

At least 834,000 civilians from the Swat and Buner districts are registered as displaced persons with the United Nations after leaving their homes to escape the fighting.

Antonio Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, told Al Jazeera that the scale of the refugee crisis is overwhelming.

"Pakistan has no capacity to deal with these people and to provide them with the basic needs they require. The Pakistani people are in need of massive humanitarian support from the international community," he said from the Swabi refugee camp on Thursday.

"If you look at the movement [of people from the war zone], it is indeed the biggest movement in present times. Massive humanitarian support is required or else there will be a humanitarian disaster."

Buner 'emptied'

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Wednesday that it had entered Buner, one of the NWFP districts most affected by the conflict.

"You can see the scars of recent fighting," Bart Janssens, the ICRC's health co-ordinator in Pakistan, said.

In depth


 Video: Pakistan's sovereign fight
 The fight for northwest Pakistan
 Riz Khan: Obama's 'AfPak' strategy
 Riz Khan: The battle for the soul of Pakistan
 Q&A: The struggle for Swat
Talking to the Taliban
Pakistan's war
 Pakistan diary
 Your views: Crisis in Swat

"There is no more electricity or clean drinking water. Most shops are closed. Goods on the market are scarce. The streets feel empty. The district is rapidly being emptied of its inhabitants."

The Pakistani military has up to 15,000 troops in place against about 4,000 Taliban fighters in the northwest of the country.

At least 750 suspected Taliban fighters and 33 troops have died in military operations in Lower Dir, Buner and Swat since April 26th, the military says.

The military onslaught comes after increasing pressure by the US government to take a stronger line against the Taliban.

The Taliban on Wednesday issued an ultimatum to provincial leaders in Pakistan, with a spokesman for the group telling Al Jazeera that the officials must resign or else their families would be targeted.

Drone co-operation

The US military has confirmed newspaper reports that it had shared with Islamabad surveillance data from drones flying over Pakistani territory.

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirmed at a US senate hearing that Pakistan had requested surveillance support missions.

"In terms of support and information, they have asked for that, and where they have asked for that, we've supported them," Mullen told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.

"Those requests have ceased over the period of about the last month."

The New York Times had earlier reported that the US military had shared intelligence data from drones with the Pakistani military.

Mullen said the newspaper report was an "accurate portrayal" of co-operation between Washington and Islamabad.

Pakistani denial

But the Pakistani military has strongly denied that it is co-operating with US forces in the deployment of the drones.

Pakistan has in recent months stated its opposition to US drone overflights. Bombs launched from drones have been responsible for the deaths of at least 390 people in Pakistan, many of them civilians, since August 2008.

Islamabad has called the drone flights and bombing runs a violation of its territorial sovereignty.

Asif Ali Zardari, the Pakistani president, said on Wednesday that he had asked Washington for "ownership" of US drones carrying out attacks on its territory.

Islamabad was "negotiating terms" with Washington over the use of the drones, he said, after talks with Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, in London.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Ukrainians living in Russia are choosing to keep a low profile amid high tension between the countries.
Mother of jailed Al Jazeera journalist Abdullah Elshamy says her son's ordeal highlights the value of press freedom.
French Jews and Muslims say recent National Front victories in mayoral races reflect rising xenophobia.
Western fighters have streamed into the Middle East to help 'liberate' Arab countries such as Syria and Libya.
Featured
Survivors of Bangladesh garment factory collapse say they received little compensation and face economic hardship.
As Iraq prepares to vote, deadly violence is surging. But at the site of one bomb attack, people insist life must go on.
French Jews and Muslims say recent National Front victories in mayoral races reflect rising xenophobia.
Up to 23,000 federal prisoners could qualify for clemency under new Justice Department initiative.
After years of rapid growth, Argentina is bracing for another economic crisis as inflation eats up purchasing power.
join our mailing list