About 22,000 flee Mohmand offensive: UN

February 03, 2011

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Residents travel by van as they evacuate the conflict area in Mohmand Agency.-AFP/File photo

PESHAWAR: About 22,000 Pakistani civilians have fled a fresh military push against Taliban fighters in the lawless tribal area on the Afghan border, officials said Thursday.

The offensive is concentrated in Mohmand district, part of the semi-autonomous region that Washington considers a global nexus of Al-Qaeda and Taliban.

“Over the last few days about 22,000 people have been registered in the two camps that UNHCR has helped to set up,” UN Refugee Agency spokeswoman Ariane Rummery told AFP.

Amjad Ali, the top administrative official in Ghalanai, the main town of Mohmand, confirmed the number.

“We are providing them with food, non-food items and tents,” he told AFP.

Ali said the ground and air offensive is targeting local Taliban and other fighters who have fled operations elsewhere in the semi-autonomous tribal belt, including the premier fortress of Waziristan.

“We have sealed the border with Afghanistan and also sent in troop reinforcements,” he said.

An official in Pakistan's Frontier Corps paramilitary said more than 70 militants had been killed over five days of fighting and confirmed that thousands of people have been displaced.

Mian Iftikhar Hussain, Information Minister in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, attributed a recent spike in bomb attacks on civilians to the fresh operation.

“Whenever action is taken in the tribal areas, militants react here in the settled areas. Fresh bomb blasts are reaction of the Mohmand operation,” he told AFP in the provincial capital Peshawar.