Pakistani authorities on Sunday temporarily suspended a curfew in
northwestern Swat Valley, to allow tens of thousands of civilians to
flee the region where government troops are fighting Taliban militants.
The Associated Press reports desperate Swat residents were seen trying
to leave the region any way they could -- by car, animal-pulled carts
and on foot -- after the curfew was lifted for nine hours.
The U.N. refugee agency expects 500,000 people to flee the fighting, with many heading for displaced persons' camps.
The Pakistani military says it had killed about 400 insurgents since
Friday in Swat and the neighboring Shangla district. Two soldiers also
died in the latest fighting. There has been no independent confirmation
of the casualties.
Pakistani troops backed by fighter jets and helicopter gunships
launched a full-scale offensive in Swat and surrounding districts on
Thursday after militants took control of other areas, some only 100
kilometers from the capital, Islamabad.
The international aid group World Vision says conditions in
hastily-constructed displaced persons' camps are "intolerable" because
of high temperatures, insufficient sanitary facilities and a lack of
A World Vision official (Jeff Hall) said Sunday relief
workers may not be able to meet the basic needs of refugees if they
continue arriving at the camps at such a quick pace.
Pakistani officials say the Taliban violated a February peace deal that
required them to disarm in exchange for the establishment of Islamic
law (Sharia) in
Malakand Division. The officials also accused militants of trying to
set up a parallel government in the area. The Taliban blames the
government for attacking militants.
An army spokesman (Major-General Athar Abbas) said Friday the military was battling at least 4,000 militants in Swat Valley, including Uzbeks and Tajiks.
Some 15,000 Pakistani security forces are deployed in the region.