Military convoys intended to enclose Taliban forces within the Swat Valley have effectively barricaded in civilians attempting to escape the fighting
Over the past several weeks, some 800,000 refugees have fled Pakistan’s Swat Valley, where Taliban forces and the Pakistani army are battling. The total number of civilians who have left the region since August now nears 1.3 million—roughly half of the region’s population of 2.7 million, according to statistics provided by The Wall Street Journal. Officials from the Pakistani government and the United Nations believe this number will soon approach 1.5 million, which would make this the largest forced relocation of people in the country’s history.
Squadrons of elite Pakistani commandoes have descended upon the area’s mountainous terrain on a stakeout of Maulana Fazlullah, the head of Swat Valley’s Taliban forces. Roadways have been sealed off by the Pakistani military to contain the insurgents. In all, approximately 15,000 Pakistan Army troops have been sent to the area to fight an estimated 5,000 Taliban combatants.
Those Swat Valley civilians who remain cannot leave the area because of the blockade, and aid workers are unable to get in to provide staple goods and medical care.
The area’s largest town, Mingora, is now occupied by 4,000 Taliban fighters, and residents are living in fear. One was quoted by The London Times as saying to Agence France-Presse, “Please, please, please do not call me again—they will cut my throat and say that I was spying.” As of Wednesday, seven people had been slain by the Taliban on such allegations, their bodies left to lie in Mingora’s town square as a sign of shaming.
Meanwhile, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari met with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday in New York and with U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown in London on Wednesday, where he asked for aid.
This article was originally published on findingdulcinea.com