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Civilians Trapped In Pakistani War Zone Face Mounting Problems


Pakistani soldiers patrol through a destroyed bazaar in the main town of Miran Shah, North Waziristan on July 9, 2014.

Tens of thousands of civilians who are stuck in a northwestern tribal region of Pakistan face chronic food shortages and a lack of services as sporadic fighting between the military and Taliban militants continues.

Residents of remote regions in North Waziristan told RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal that the ongoing military offensive often results in civilian casualties and damage to civilian homes and shops.

Local officials estimate that some 200,000 civilians across North Waziristan’s nearly 5,000 square kilometer territory are unable to flee from the fighting.

Gul Azam, a resident of the village of Shakhimar, said that his family has gone hungry after running out of supplies.

"We have some people who need urgent medical help, but we cannot take them to hospitals,” he said. “None of us can hope to get any food after we finish all our supplies."

Men fleeing from the military offensive against Pakistani militants in North Waziristan queue to get relief handouts from a storage tent of the World Food Programme in Bannu.
Men fleeing from the military offensive against Pakistani militants in North Waziristan queue to get relief handouts from a storage tent of the World Food Programme in Bannu.

Sher Ayaz Khan, a resident Datta Khel, a town on the border with Afghanistan, said militants sometime hide in the empty houses of families who managed to escape after the offensive began, which often results in civilian casualties and the destruction of civilian homes as Pakistani airstrikes target the militants.

Khan said that his family went hungry for six days earlier this month.

"One day the military arrived in our village and gave us some rice,” he said. "We have no running water or electricity. It is nearly impossible to live here."

Mohammad Rahim, another resident of Datta Khel, told Radio Mashaal that his children are sick from the stress of living under constant fear of fighting.

"The shelling and airstrikes can happen randomly, day or night."

Pakistani army Brigadier General Mukhtiar told Radio Mashaal that the military is doing its best to help the civilians still trapped in the region.

"Every resident of North Waziristan is entitled to the aid we are now giving to the displaced from the region," he said. "I call on the communities staying behind not to let the terrorists come into their homes and villages. This will protect their homes from destruction and they will also get all the government aid."

Pakistani soldiers patrol with an armoured vehicle in Miran Shah.
Pakistani soldiers patrol with an armoured vehicle in Miran Shah.

Recent reports estimate more than half a million civilians have left North Waziristan for the nearby districts of Bannu, Lakki Marwat, Karak and Dera Ismail Khan since the beginning of the military offensive in mid-June.

Officials had earlier reported the number to be nearly one million. An additional 100,000 North Waziristan residents have moved into the neighboring provinces of southeastern Afghanistan.

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