Gunships kill 55 Taliban, residents stuck

Gunships kill 55 Taliban, residents stuck

Massive civilian exodus as Pakistan army goes on full-scale offensive in Swat valley




The struggle in the scenic northwestern valley, 130 km from Islamabad, has become a test of Pakistan’s resolve to fight a growing Taliban insurgency that has alarmed the United States.

Pakistan’s army went on a full-scale offensive on Friday after a government go-ahead to flush out violent militants from the Islamist stronghold, a former tourism centre.

Fighting had already picked up earlier in the week, triggering a mass civilian exodus from the battle zones in recent days, but concerns are growing about the fate of those still trapped and unable to move because of a curfew. Swat’s top administrator, Khushal Khan, said the curfew would remain in force throughout the day, although he said there could be a break at some point later so those who wanted to go could leave.

Displacement

The UN refugee agency has said a “massive displacement” is underway. Citing provincial government estimates, it said on Friday up to two lakh people had left their homes over recent days with another three lakh on the move or about to move.

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