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Pakistani Government Suspends Military Operations for Ramadan

Pakistani government officials have announced military operations in the country's northwest will be suspended out of respect for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The head of Pakistan's Interior Ministry, Rehman Malik, Saturday said the offensive against militants in the tribal region will be halted Sunday night to allow displaced civilians to return home and observe the religious festival, which is expected to begin Monday. He warned that security forces will retaliate if attacked.

Malik made the comments during a news conference in the eastern city of Lahore.

Military officials say at least 40 militants were killed after fighter jets began pounding militant hideouts in the Swat Valley late Friday, to try to flush militants from the area.

Elsewhere in the northwest, residents and officials say a missile fired from across the border in Afghanistan has hit a suspected militant hideout in the town of Wana, in South Waziristan. Officials say at least five people were killed.

A Pakistani army spokesman, Major Murad Khan, said he was aware of the explosion, but could not confirm whether it was caused by a missile.

It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the attack, but U.S.-operated pilotless drone aircraft have launched attacks in Pakistan's border region in recent months, killing militants.

More than 500 militants have been killed during a military offensive in the Bajaur tribal region. Red Cross officials say 200,000 people - mostly women and children - have also been displaced since the fighting began several weeks ago.

A Red Cross spokeswoman, Carla Haddad, says the aid organization plans to deliver large quantities of food and other supplies to those living in makeshift camps in the tribal areas of Dir and Mardan in North West Frontier Province.

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