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Tens of thousands displaced in new Pakistan offensive

world Updated: Sep 15, 2009 11:35 IST
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Between 56,000 and 100,000 people have fled their homes since Pakistani troops launched a new anti-Taliban offensive in the tribal Khyber district, UN and Pakistani officials estimated on Tuesday.

The military, backed by artillery and helicopter gunships, launched the offensive on September 1 after a suicide bomber killed 22 policemen in Khyber, which lies on the main supply route for Western troops in Afghanistan.

“Over 100,000 people have arrived in Peshawar since the military mounted an offensive,” said Mian Iftikhar Hussain, information minister in North West Frontier Province.

“We intend to set up a camp for them. We have asked the federal government to provide us assistance to cope with the situation.”

Qaiser Afridi, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said the ongoing operation in the Bara district of Khyber had displaced between 8,000 and 12,000 families. The families average seven members.

“They are staying with their friends and relatives and we are just getting this data from our implementing partners,” Afridi told AFP.

UNHCR has advised the government to prepare assistance for the displaced people, he said. “We are assessing the humanitarian situation there and let’s see what the government does.”