Indiana Daily Student

Civilians flee military operations in NW region

Thousands of civilians are fleeing the latest military operation against insurgents in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber tribal region, a government official said Sunday.

The U.S. is pressuring Pakistan to crack down on insurgents along its border with Afghanistan, especially the lawless tribal belt where al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden is suspected to be hiding. The U.S. believes militants use Pakistan’s tribal areas as safe havens from which to plan attacks on Western troops across the frontier.

Khyber is of particular concern because militants frequently attack trucks along the famed Khyber Pass, a main route for supplies destined for U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

The region is largely off-limits to journalists, making it difficult to verify the information independently.

Farooq Khan, a government official in Khyber, said hundreds of families had been fleeing the region since authorities relaxed a curfew Friday.

Khan said there were no procedures in place to register the fleeing civilians, making impossible to reach an exact number. He said there were no plans for refugee camps, and security forces were “keeping a strict eye” out for any militants trying to blend in.

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