Mass exodus from affected areas


Afp April 10, 2010

ISLAMABAD: More than 200,000 civilians have fled a military offensive and violence in Orakzai and Kurram tribal regions, officials said on Friday.

The United Nations said the mass exodus began in November from Orakzai and Kurram agencies, which have been hit by Taliban and al Qaeda linked militancy as well as sectarian violence.

Pakistan troops launched a punishing assault against Taliban militants in Orakzai last month and the operation entered its 17th day on Friday.

“More than 35,000 families or approximately 210,000 individuals from Orakzai and Kurram have been registered as internally displaced persons (IDPs) since November last year,” UN refugee agency spokeswoman Ariane Rummery told AFP.

She said of the 35,000 families, 16,376 had been registered as IDPs since February, mostly in the towns of Hangu and Kohat. She said Pakistani authorities had also registered this week fresh IDPs fleeing to Peshawar from Kurram and Orakzai. However, she gave no breakdown of the latest movement of people.

Orakzai is a former bastion of the outlawed Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan chief Hakimullah Mehsud, whom US officials believe died in a US drone attack in January.

The Pakistani military says it has no evidence he is in the area.

Under US pressure, Pakistan has in the past year significantly increased operations against militants in its tribal belt, which Washington has described as the most dangerous region on Earth.

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