22,000 people flee Pak tribal region amid military operation

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A Muhammad

Peshawar, Feb 4 (PTI) About 22,000 people have fledthe Mohmand tribal region of northwest Pakistan after themilitary launched an operation there last month to flush outTaliban fighters, officials said today.

The military operation has forced 14,700 people toflee their homes in the semi-autonomous tribal regionbordering Afghanistan, an official of the local politicaladministration told PTI on condition of anonymity.

Other officials put the figure of displaced people atnearly 22,000.

"Many more residents of Mohmand Agency are leavingtheir homes as the security forces have intensified theoperation that began on January 27," the official of thepolitical administration said.

The military has used combat aircraft, heavy artilleryand ground forces to target militants in Saafi, Khwezai,Pindyali and Ambar areas of Mohmand Agency.

Nearly 100 militants have been killed so far,officials said.

There have been reports of casualties among thesecurity forces and civilians but this could not beindependently confirmed.

The political administration has set up two reliefcamps at Nahqi and Danish Kol for the displaced people.

The homeless are being provided food and basicnecessities by the local authorities and the UNHCR.

The UN Office for the Coordination of HumanitarianAffairs said in a statement today that the influx of peopledisplaced by the military operation in Mohmand Agency is"rapidly rising".

A total of 2,771 families were registered in the tworelief camps today.

"Food, shelter and sanitation are the most neededresponses for the internally displaced population. With around6,000 displaced families expected, the situation is likely toworsen in the next few weeks," the statement said.

UNOCHA said humanitarian workers were also facingdifficulties in obtaining "no objection certificates" fromauthorities to access areas in the conflict zone.

This is the latest offensive launched by the Pakistanimilitary in the volatile tribal region, where troops havebattled Taliban fighters for the past three years.

The military has said it is hopeful that the displacedpeople in Mohmand Agency will be able to return to their homessoon.

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