Pakistani officials are telling about two million people who fled the
war-torn Swat Valley the region is almost ready for their return.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said Thursday most of the area has
been secured and that essential services have been restored.
However, local reports from the greater Swat Valley region say Taliban
militants are still active in the area and continue to intimidate
Tens of thousands of people have been living in camps since Pakistan's
army began an all-out offensive in late April aimed at wiping out
Taliban insurgents. Many more are staying with friends or relatives,
with aid agencies warning many communities were being overwhelmed.
Mr. Gilani says people can begin going home next week, July 13, although the army will remain in the area for security.
He says 1,700 militants were killed during the offensive.
This is not the first time people have been told it was safe to go
home. More than three weeks ago, Pakistani officials asked people from
the Buner district to return.
The United Nations has been providing aid to many of the people and is
eager to see them return home. But U.N. officials say conditions must
be safe and that any return must be voluntary.
Even as Pakistani military operations conclude in the Swat Valley, the
campaign against the Taliban has intensified in other parts of the
country's volatile northwest.
Recent operations have included airstrikes against militant targets in
South Waziristan, a longtime stronghold of fugitive Taliban commander