Thousands flee Pakistan tribal belt

Around 135,000 people have fled area bordering Afghanistan to escape fighting.

    More than 460 fighters and 22 soldiers have died since military operations started a week ago [AFP]

    Rising death toll

    "We have directed officials in adjoining districts to provide shelter, food and health care to the migrating families. We are setting up more camps to help these people just like refugees."

    More than 460 suspected fighters and 22 army troops, have died since Pakistani forces started military operations in Bajaur a week ago, officials say.

    Abdul Rehman Malik, the head of Pakistan's interior ministry, said intelligence sources claim that about 3,000 fighters remain in the northwestern region of Bajaur. He also said they included Pakistanis, Afghans and Central Asians.

    Malik also vowed to "wipe out" the fighters.

    Witnesses said that thousands of families had arrived in Shabqadar, a small town adjoining the tribal belt. Local residents and welfare groups were raising funds and cooking food for them, they said.

    Local residents in the Mammoond area of Bajaur have said that pro-Taliban fighters had banned people from migrating, saying that if they left the area it would be a sign of defeat.

    'Taliban leader killed'

    Pakistani authorities are investigating whether a senior Taliban leader was among nine suspected fighters killed near the Afghan border, officials have said..

    According to Mohammed Khan, a government official, helicopter gunships fired on the group near Khar, the main town in Bajur on Thursday during a military offensive.

    Khan said the targeted vehicles had previously been in the use of Maulvi Faqir Mohammed, who is believed to be an associate of Ayman al-Zawahri, al-Qaeda's second-in-command 

    However, late on Thursday, Faqir Mohammed's spokesman claimed he had escaped the attack.

    SOURCE: Agencies


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Survivor stories from Super Typhoon Haiyan

    Survivor stories from Super Typhoon Haiyan

    The Philippines’ Typhoon Haiyan was the strongest storm ever to make landfall. Five years on, we revisit this story.

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    Russian-Saudi relations could be very different today, if Stalin hadn't killed the Soviet ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

    We Are Still Here: A Story from Native Alaska

    We Are Still Here: A Story from Native Alaska

    From Qatar to Alaska, a personal journey exploring what it means to belong when your culture is endangered.