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Pakistani Troops Swarm Swat Valley; Residents Trapped


Pakistani troops backed by helicopter gunships and war planes are pounding Taliban militants in the northwestern Swat Valley, forcing hundreds of thousands of people to flee while others have been trapped. Pakistani military officials said Saturday 55 militants have been killed in what is being described as an effort to eliminate militants from the region.

Some of the heaviest fighting took place in the town of Mingora, where the military says helicopter gunships targeting Taliban hideouts killed 15 militants.

Arshad Khan says his house was hit with a mortar shell during the fighting. Khan says everyone is scared and trying to leave but there are no transports out.

Those who have managed to flee the fighting are making their way south to camps for displaced people, like the Jalalai camp near the town of Mardan, where aid workers are distributing food, water and medicine.

Anwan Zab Khan arrived at the camp Saturday from Swat He says there are not enough tents, that 14 to 15 people are being forced to share one tent.

About 100 refugees brought their complaints to Islamabad, holding a demonstration to demand more help.

Gul Bibi came to the capital from the Swat Valley. Bibi asks, "what will we eat, what will we drink?" She says the refugees left everything behind.

Many of those fleeing fighting also say scores of civilians are dying.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani says the 15,000 Pakistani security forces deployed to the region are doing what they can to limit collateral damage.

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