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800,000 flee Pak anti-militants offensive

PESHAWAR, Pakistan, July 9, (AFP): More than 800,000 people have fled a major military offensive against the Taleban in a Pakistani tribal area, officials said Wednesday. Tens of thousands of families have left the North Waziristan tribal area for the nearby town of Bannu. Hundreds more have moved further afield to the towns of Lakki Marwat, Karak and Dera Ismail Khan since the attacks began in mid- June. Officials from the FATA Disaster Management Authority (FDMA) said they were checking registrations for duplicates, meaning the figure may come down.

The military is using troops, tanks and jets in North Waziristan and has vowed to wipe out strongholds which insurgents have used to mount countless deadly attacks in recent years. “Some 833,274 people or 66,726 migrating families from North Waziristan were registered in cities of Bannu and Peshawar until Tuesday evening,” Arshad Khan, FDMA director general, told AFP. Khan said 361,459 of the displaced were children and 248,633 women.

The military said jets on Tuesday bombed and destroyed seven insurgent hideouts in Degan village, a stronghold of Taleban militants, killing at least 13 rebels. The strikes were carried out at Degan village, a stronghold of Taliban militants in the North Waziristan tribal district. “Seven terrorist hideouts were destroyed and 13 terrorists were killed, including foreigners, by jet aircraft strikes in Degan in North Waziristan Agency today,” a military statement said.

More than half a million civilians have fled the long-awaited offensive unleashed by the military on the tribal area last month. The military has vowed to wipe out the strongholds which insurgents have used to mount countless deadly attacks in recent years. So far 399 militants and 20 soldiers have been killed in the offensive, according to the military. The area is currently off-limits to journalists, making it impossible to verify military claims about the number and identity of those killed.

The assault was launched on June 15 after a dramatic attack on Karachi airport last month which killed dozens of people and marked the end of a faltering peace process with the Pakistani Taleban. The rugged mountainous area has been a hideout for years for Islamist militants of all stripes — including al-Qaeda and the homegrown Tehreek-e-Taleban Pakistan as well as foreign fighters including Uzbeks and Uighurs.

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