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Thousands flee tribal Pakistan ahead of offensive

Last Updated: Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - 14:49

Dera Ismail Khan: Tens of thousands of civilians have fled Pakistan`s tribal South Waziristan region fearing an imminent army offensive against Taliban militants, officials said Wednesday.

Authorities have registered 90,000 people displaced from the tribal belt on the Afghan border since August, with a fresh exodus after a weekend hostage siege at army headquarters near Islamabad deeply embarrassed the military.

The government in June ordered an operation into the mountainous northwest stronghold of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, but so far only air raids and occasional artillery strikes have hit rebel sanctuaries.

However, a wave of Taliban attacks in Pakistan that has killed 125 people since last Monday has stoked fears that the long-awaited ground offensive is looming, sending more people fleeing.

"Around 90,000 people have left the area (since August) and have been shifted to safer places in Dera Ismail Khan and Tank," said Shahab Ali Shah, the top administrative official in South Waziristan.

Bureau Report

First Published: Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - 14:49
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