| KHAR, Pakistan
KHAR, Pakistan Aug 15 About 100,000 Pakistani
villagers have fled clashes between security forces and
militants in a northwestern region raising the danger of a big
humanitarian problem, a government official said on Friday.
Security forces and militants have been fighting in the
Bajaur region on the Afghan border, a known sanctuary for al
Qaeda and Taliban fighters, since the militants attacked a
security post last week.
About 170 people have been killed, including some
civilians, officials have said. The fighting has included
strikes on militants by fighter jets and helicopter gunships.
The violence has triggered an exodus, with people streaming
out of the region on packed pick-up trucks and on foot, many
heading for the safety of the main northwestern city of
The displaced people are creating one more problem for a
new coalition government pre-occupied with political wrangling
while economic and security problems mount.
"We are gathering figures from various areas and it is
close to 100,000, it may be more than that," said Sitara Imran,
Minister for Social Welfare in the North West Frontier
"This will create a big humanitarian problem ... We are
going to appeal to civil society and international donor
agencies for help," Imran said.
Bajaur is the most northerly of seven semi-autonomous
tribal regions. It is opposite Afghanistan's eastern province
of Kunar, where U.S. troops are battling al Qaeda and Taliban
Villager Mohammad Maroof walked for many hours with his
family to get out of Bajaur, where he said life had become
"There is no such thing as life in Bajaur. We were like a
prisoners in our own homes," said Maroof, who has taken refuge
with friends in Peshawar.
Imran said the humanitarian situation was expected to
deteriorate with people also leaving the northwestern valley of
Swat where troops are also battling militants.
Nearly 150 people have been killed in two weeks of renewed
clashes in the valley, which until last year was one of the
country's main tourist destinations.
The election of a civilian government in February brought
lull in militant violence as new leaders sought to make peace
deals in various trouble spots but trouble has flared again in
(Additional reporting and writing by Augustine Anthony;
Editing by Robert Birsel and David Fox)