[QODLink]
Central & South Asia
Scores flee Pakistan army operation
Fresh military offensive against armed fighters forces thousands of people to flee their villages for safety.
Last Modified: 04 Feb 2011 14:54 GMT

Pakistan army's operations have left a million people displaced, including 140,000 people from Mohmand agency [EPA]

Over 20,000 Pakistani villagers have fled military operations against armed fighters in Pakistan's tribal region of Mohmand near the Afghan border, a government official and the army has said.

Major General Athar Abbas, an army spokesman, confirmed on Friday that military operations were under way in Mohmand.

"We are targeting militant hideouts there," he said, adding that he hoped the displaced would soon be able to return.

According to a UNHCR estimate, if the fighting intensifies then up to 90,000 people (or 10,000 families) could be displaced by the end of February.

Over the last few days, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has registered about 25,000 people displaced as a result of fresh military operations against insurgents in the country's northwest.

The fighting began on January 27, involving aerial bombing, artillery and ground troops.

Roshan Khan Mehsud, the region's government representative, said that about 100 fighters had been killed so far, and the army has suffered "some casualties".

He did not, however, mention any civilian casualties.

Mehsud said that the people displaced by the Mohmand operations are living in a government building and schools.

The UNHCR has established two new camps, which are mainly accommodating people who have been fleeing the Sagi and Dawezai areas of Mohmand.

They have been given tents and other relief supplies, including sleeping mats, blankets, and kitchen utensils, and warm clothes for children. 

People are also receiving hot meals and provision of food rations is being discussed with World Food Programme (WFP).

There have been reports by people arriving at camps that some young and middle-aged men have had difficulty leaving the conflict zone.

The authorities are being urged to ensure that any screening activities to identify fighters do not prevent civilians from leaving the area for safety.

Reporting restrictions

Pakistan's military has carried out several operations in the country's remote tribal regions bordering Afghanistan over the last three years.

It has claimed to have made significant gains against the fighters, though many hundreds of thousands of the displaced residents have yet to return.

There have been several accounts of civilian casualties and attacks by Taliban fighters in Pakistan remain routine.

Reporting independently in Mohmand and other border areas is not allowed by the army and is considered highly dangerous.

The US has been pushing Pakistan to take action against Taliban and al-Qaeda hide-outs in the northwest of the country.

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
More than one-quarter of Gaza's population has been displaced, causing a humanitarian crisis.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Muslim charities claim discrimination after major UK banks began closing their accounts.
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Featured
Lawsuit by 6-year-old girl, locked up for a year, reignites debate over indefinite detention of 'boat people'.
Indonesian and Malaysian authorities are keeping a close eye on local supporters of the hard-line Middle East group.
Citizens of the tiny African nation say they're increasingly anxious of the fallout after alleged coup.
A humanitarian crisis and a budget crisis converge in the heart of the human smuggling corridor in Texas.
Assam officials upset that WWII-era Stillwell Road won't be used in transnational highway linking four Asian nations.
join our mailing list