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Exodus From Northwest Pakistan Continues as Fighting Rages


Hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis continue to flee a military offensive against the Taliban in the northwest Monday, as the U.N. refugee agency said it would airlift 120 tons of emergency aid to the internally displaced.

Several temporary camps in the region said they are full, and rental property in nearby cities is scarce, leaving many residents nowhere to go.

The head of the U.N. refugee agency, Antonio Guterres, said humanitarian supplies will include plastic sheets, portable warehouses and mosquito nets. The United States said it will provide $4.9 million in emergency aid to displaced families.

Meanwhile, heavy fighting was reported in Swat Valley's main city of Mingora and clashes in neighboring Buner and Dir districts in Malakand region.

The Interior Ministry said about 700 militants were killed in the offensive since it began last week, but the death toll could not be independently verified.

As the military pushed forward Monday, a suicide bomber killed 10 people at a security checkpoint in North West Frontier Province. No one claimed responsibility for the blast.

The U.N. refugee agency says more than 360,000 people have registered with authorities after escaping the latest fighting. They are joining some 500,000 other people who have been displaced by violence in other northwestern areas in the past year.

In related news, the New York Times newspaper reported Monday that al-Qaida is taking advantage of Pakistan's turmoil to strengthen its presence there.

The article quoted unnamed U.S. and Pakistani intelligence officials who said al-Qaida is recruiting young fighters from across the region and the Middle East, and bolstering other Islamist militant groups.


Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.

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