Mass exodus in wake of sustained army assault

ISLAMABAD: Around 200,000 people have abandoned their homes in Pakistan’s South Waziristan tribal area, where the military is pressing an offensive against Taliban militants, said an army spokesman.

“As of today, 26,165 families have been registered,” Colonel Waseem Shahid, spokesman for the army’s special support group, told AFP.

He said the army uses a working average of eight members to each family. “The cricket stadium in Dera Ismail Khan has been converted into a hub of registration and IDPs are being facilitated in registration,” he added.

The Red Cross warned last week that relief workers were being kept out of South aziristan and that the civilian toll is believed to be mounting.

The United Nations said that half the people were displaced during the past two weeks. The military was Monday pressing the offensive for a 10th day.

Cash assistance of Rs 5,000 will be given to each displaced family every month as on-food support, officials have said.

Pakistan has claimed a string of successes during the offensive to crush Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in South Waziristan, pressing its most ambitious battle yet in a tribal area infested with Al-Qaeda-linked rebels.

The military says 178 militants and 24 troops have been killed but none of the information provided by the army is possible to verify with communication lines down and access banned to journalists and aid workers.

Pakistan sent nearly 30,000 troops into action against an estimated 10,000 Taliban fighters in South Waziristan after a series of major attacks in cities that have left nearly 200 people dead so far this month.