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Pakistani PM Says Government Must Help Swat Refugees

Pakistan's prime minister has vowed to win a military victory over Taliban militants in the country's northwest, but he is also warning the government could lose popular support if it fails to deal with the flood of refugees fleeing the violence.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told parliament Thursday the exodus of people from the Swat valley is the largest mass displacement in Pakistan since the country was founded in 1947.

The United Nations says the unrest has pushed some 800,000 people out of their homes, bringing the number of people displaced by the violence over the past year to more than one million.

News reports from the region say members of a banned charity, Jamaat-e-Dawa, linked to the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba have been providing aid to refugees and transporting them to camps.

The group, formerly known as Jamaat-e-Dawa, has renamed itself the Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation.

Pakistan's government shut down the charity after last year's terrorist attack against the Indian city of Mumbai, an attack that Indian authorities have blamed on Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Temperatures at the refugee camps soared above 40 degrees Celsius Thursday, and scuffles broke out at some camps Wednesday, as people fought to receive food, water and other relief supplies.

There is no official report on civilian casualties from the military offensive.

Troops have not yet started battling the militants who control Swat's main town, Mingora, where residents are taking shelter inside their homes and bracing for a government assault.

A Pakistani military spokesman, Major General Athar Abbas, said Thursday that 54 Taliban militants and nine members of Pakistan's security forces were killed in fighting in the northwest during a 24-hour period. He said troops have cleared most of Malakand division's Buner district of Taliban fighters, and security forces have consolidated their positions in the remote Piochar area of Swat Valley.