Hundreds of thousands of people in northwest Pakistan continue to flee
the ongoing army offensive against Taliban militants. Following days without electricity
and water, even people outside the conflict zone are scrambling to
Pakistan's army continues to assault Taliban
positions in the northwest Malakand region using airstrikes, artillery
fire and ground troops. Heavy fighting continues in Swat's main city
Mingora, and clashes are still being reported in neighboring Buner and
Dir districts, which the army first entered about two weeks ago.
head of Pakistan's interior ministry says about 700 militants have been
killed in the operation, but there has been no independent confirmation
of that figure or an official tally of civilian deaths.
are widely varying estimates on the number of people fleeing the
conflict and those still trapped by fighting. Malakand residents say
the intensity of the army offensive and intimidation by local Taliban
have kept many people from leaving. Local news agencies report as many
as 700,000 people may still be trying to escape.
Nations estimates about 360,000 people have fled the recent fighting,
joining about half a million Pakistanis displaced by violence in
other northwestern areas in the past year.
contacted by VOA reported a harrowing journey avoiding army artillery
barrages and Taliban fighters. One 15-year-old girl from Swat spoke
to VOA at a village just outside Islamabad.
says we left Swat with no extra clothes or food. We have no money to
buy food and are sleeping on the concrete floor of this house. She
says she does not sleep much because of the heat and mosquitoes. Even
civilians who do not live directly in the war zone are fleeing after
the fighting cut-off basic services for days.
One resident of Buner tells VOA desperate conditions have forced him to try to relocate his family.
my area we do not have any electricity, we do not have any water, we do
not have mobile phones. We do not even have any vegetables because all
of the shopkeepers have left Buner," he said. "To buy the vegetables we are
coming out of Buner to district Mardan."
resident says the vast majority of his neighbors have already left.
Many of those who remain are men left behind to protect their homes.
hundreds of thousands of people fleeing, several temporary camps for
displaced people in the region report they have reached capacity. In
nearby cities, rental property is scarce.
The Buner resident has been searching, unsuccessfully, for a home to rent.
the last two days I am searching for a house. I contacted about 100
property dealers and nobody has a house. There was one three-bedroom
house that normally rent was like 10,000 [rupees, or about $125] and they
were asking 70,000 rupees [about $875] for one month," he said.
in Islamabad have vowed the military operation will succeed in clearing
Taliban from the area soon. Meanwhile, elsewhere in Pakistan's
northwest a suicide bomber detonated a blast at a security checkpoint,
killing six civilians and two paramilitary soldiers. No group has
claimed responsibility, but Taliban militants routinely target security