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Pakistani troops attack Taliban as more than half a million flee

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Pakistan fighter jets and attack helicopters pounded Taliban hideouts in the northwest on Wednesday as President Asif Ali Zardari appealed for global help to avert a humanitarian catastrophe.

More than 500,000 civilians have fled the punishing offensive, now into its 17th day, escaping also out of the reach of Taliban fighters who have terrorised the local population in a bloody campaign to enforce sharia law.

The air attacks targeted Taliban strongholds across the iconic Swat valley, which has sunk from stunning ski resort favored by Westerners to crucible of Taliban violence, security officials said.

Helicopter gunships also swung into action in the neighboring district of Lower Dir, where the military has been on the offensive since April 26 after Taliban fighters advanced within 100 kilometers of Islamabad.

Up to 15,000 security forces are taking on about 4,000 well-armed fighters in Swat in what Islamabad calls a battle to "eliminate" Islamist militants, branded by Washington as the greatest terror threat to the West.

"All exit roads from Mingora have been closed. Our troops have surrounded the city to deny any exit to militants," a military official, referring to the main town in Swat.

"We have also blocked the road to Dir as militants were using the route to flee to the tribal district of Bajaur," the official said.

Zardari, who has been in the United States for talks with President Barack Obama, met U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in New York where he appealed for global aid for the displaced.

"We're appealing to the world, myself and the secretary general... to draw attention on the human catastrophe that is taking place," he told reporters.

"They (civilians) are losing their crops, they're losing their earnings, their livelihood and their homes, so we want the world to help us."

Ban expressed "deep concern" about the humanitarian situation in the area, where the U.N. refugee agency said 501,496 stranded people had registered with authorities since May 2.

Ban said the United Nations "is ready to stand by to provide the necessary humanitarian assistance."

U.N. humanitarian chief John Holmes promised to increase "substantially" an aid appeal for Pakistan -- having already requested $165.9 million for humanitarian aid in the country for 2008-2009.

Even before the latest fighting, the United Nations was dealing with about half a million displaced people in the country.

Obama's administration, which has put Pakistan at the heart of its fight against al-Qaida, also lobbied hard for a giant aid package, arguing that to abandon the nuclear-armed nation would risk vital U.S. national interests.

Richard Holbrooke, Obama's special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan, said the $7.5 billion aid bill, sponsored by senators John Kerry and Richard Lugar, had a "talismanic quality" for Pakistanis.

"The only beneficiaries of a delay in this bill are the enemies of this nation," said the diplomat, adding that Washington was prepared to extend new aid to the displaced.

Airborne commandos Tuesday opened a new front in Swat's northern mountains, suspected stronghold of firebrand Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah and top aides behind a nearly two-year uprising that has devastated the area.

Overall, the military says 751 militants and 29 troops have been killed in its operations in Lower Dir, Buner and Swat, although there is no independent confirmation of the figures and no word on civilian casualties.

Pakistani troops have conducted operations against extremists in parts of North West Frontier Province over the past two years, and for around six years in the surrounding semi-autonomous tribal belt on the Afghan border.

Extremist attacks have killed at least 1,800 people across Pakistan in less than two years while around 2,000 soldiers have died in battles with Islamist militants since 2002.

© Wire reports

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

10 Comments
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Who exactly are they blowing to smiverines? The Taliban or innocent tribesman? Do the Taliban have a nicely pressed uniform with their countries flag prominently displayed on it? This is a slaughter.

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Sounds like the valley needs to be made into sand glass. What is wrong with these Sharia freaks.

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Den Den: The Taliban or innocent tribesman?

According to your previous posts, I thought the Taliban were just innocent tribesmen? Now you seem to be making a distinction - or dare I say - implying guilt on the part of the Taliban?

People will be more outraged if they actually think you believe what you're saying so it's important to keep your story straight. A more effective manufactured post from you would have been to say that the Taliban and innocent tribesmen are one in the same so any killing is a civilian killing. Your current angle won't quite get you the same level of attention, plus you have the added burden of having to contradict yourself again in future claims where you'll once again say the Taliban are just innocent victims.

Anyway, just trying to help...

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No distinction for me : the "slaughter" of the Taliban and of the "innocent tribesmen" (!) is not something i will asked to be stopped !

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Don't know who is doing their public relations, but the Pakistani Forces at least need to provide some realistic footage to world media organizations. I saw a report on CNN yesterday of "Pakistani Troops in Action." They were in action alright, but it wasn't combat. These guys were running around hosing down the "enemy" with BFA attached to their weapons (blank firing attachments used when firing blanks to blowback expended gases to reload the weapon). The whole video (and the artillery guys firing blank shells) made me worry about how effective the Pakistanis will actually be in confronting the Taliban.

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SuperLib, my point is that it is very hard to find out who is being killed etc. Our original enemy was Bin Larden, and I don't can't be bothered mentioning all the stuff relating to him. The Taliban, who consist of a lot Pastun, who populate both sides of the border, are now the supposed target for the "War in Afganistan". Apart from bringing a period of relative peace, there biggest crime is to be against the proxy - American government of Kazai. I have never said I follow their beliefs or support them. This area is a complicated network of tribes and relationships, dating back way before the creation of the US. It is Americas war that has spilled over into the tribal areas, and the leathal mix of pride and civillian deaths has created a tragety for the civilians and a recruiting tool for the forces of evil. These tribespeople may not be the most educated (by our standards), but they are human beings, and have certain rights. You can't wipe a people out just because they happen to live in an area, that, at this present time, is strategic. My reference to the Taliban (whoever they may be?), is as an enemy of the US. I sincerely feel that, not all tribesmen are Taliban, and not all Taliban are evil. Many are just young farmers, or devout religious people who believe they are doing something good. Unfortunately, christian soldiers running around extremely conservative Muslim lands is not the most wisest policy...a long way from Cheney's goal of some silly oil pipeline. My opinion, if you really care, is that fighting the Taliban will not work. Engage them and work with them, bring them into the fold(yes, power-sharing govt) and gradually bring the good things the west has to offer (education, health etc), at a pace that won't overwhelm. Every time you kill an illiterate tribesman, you will add his or her family.

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Den Den and Timorborder both have good points to make here. We have not seen definitive evidence of what the Pakistani's are achieving.

I firmly believe that suppressing the Taliban is a must for Pakistan, for improved hope for Afghanistan, for the tribal communities in the border regions and for the global community of nations. It is also the right humanitarian thing to do in order to assure a future for the people of the region that is free of repression and thuggery.

But it must be done with as much attention to the innocent bystanders as possible. And with more than ample aid to support the people who are suffering from displacement and destruction.

And it needs to be done in a way that puts the Taliban out of active business.

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Where is the proof? Just mobilistation of troops and mock raids and bombings to coincide with theri appointment with Obama. I repeat my stand that Taliban is at least in part made up of regular Pak army soldiers. There is no way they will be attacked by the army. The right noises and pretences will be made for the benifit of the media. The really important scoundrels will be quietly moved by the Pak army to safer places. A few foot soldiers are happily sacrificed. ALso its a good time to wipe out people who really oppose the Taliban ( and show that they are the wiped out Taliban). PAkistan has made running with the hares and hunting with the dogs a fine art!

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First I hope the Pakistani Army has some feet on the ground selecting the targets being hit. We've seen where innocent people have died in airstrikes.

I'm hoping that the refuges aren't away from their homes long. It's hard on them and the country.

I am glad that the weapontry that the US bought and paid for is finally being used. We've given Pakistan $11Billion to fight the Taliban. < :-)

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The Pakistani's are eliminating a threat to their democratically elected government by running the Taliban and their tribal supporters to ground. If the tribes wish to avoid the consequences they can recognize the authority of the government and turn the terrorists over to the army. The have chosen to try to "get along" with the terrorists or actually materially supported them and the barbarism that goes along with the Taliban. So now they get to suffer for their errors. I have no sympathy for them.

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