Islamabad: More than 1,000 Pakistani families have fled fresh fighting between the military and Islamist radicals in the lawless tribal belt on the Afghan border, local officials said Monday.
Pakistani artillery and fighter jets on Monday launched what an army spokesman described as a fresh operation to evict militants from the Kurram area and open up the road connecting the upper and lower parts of the district.
“More than 1,000 families have been displaced from the area during the last week,” said Arshad Khan, head of the disaster management authority in Pakistan’s tribal belt.
“We expect around 4,000 more by tomorrow, and estimate that 8,000 to 12,000 families could be displaced due to this military action,” he told AFP.
Pakistan’s seven tribal districts bordering Afghanistan are rife with a homegrown insurgency, and are also strongholds of the Afghan Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Washington has described them as the most dangerous place on Earth.
Pakistan has been under huge American pressure to do more to destroy militant sanctuaries since US Navy SEALs found and killed Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani military town of Abbottabad on May 2.
However the military has so far resisted huge US pressure to open up another front in North Waziristan, considered the premier bastion of militancy and the headquarters of the Al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani network.
Khan said that of those displaced from Kurram, about 250 families had gone to a camp while the rest were seeking shelter with relatives.
Another official working with the government in the area said that 600 families had been registered after leaving Kurram.
“We have arranged food and non-food items for them,” local administration chief Sahibzada Muhammad Anees told AFP.
Pakistani troops have been fighting homegrown militants for years, displacing hundreds of thousands of people.
Some 22,000 Pakistani civilians fled a military push against the Taliban in the lawless tribal area of Mohmand last February.
In 2009, twin offensives in Swat and South Waziristan saw an estimated 1.9 million people flee their homes in the northwest.
The military has claimed victory in a number of battles against militants, but Pakistan continues to suffer near-daily attacks blamed on Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked rebels that have killed nearly 4,500 people since July 2007.