KHAR, Pakistan (AFP) — Around 135,000 residents have fled a Pakistani tribal area bordering Afghanistan to escape clashes between troops and Taliban militants that have left scores dead, officials said Thursday.
The officials said that up to half of the population of some villages in the troubled Bajaur tribal district had moved, although militants were stopping people from leaving some areas.
"We have around 135,000 people who have left their homes there," the additional chief secretary for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Habibullah Khan, told AFP.
"We have directed officials in adjoining districts to provide shelter, food and health care to the migrating families. We are setting up more camps to help these people just like refugees," he said.
Witnesses said that thousands of families had arrived in Shabqadar, a small town adjoining the tribal belt. Local residents and welfare groups were raising funds and cooking food for them, they said.
In the Mammoond area of Bajaur, Taliban militants had banned people from migrating, saying that if they left the area it would be a sign of defeat, residents said.
The militant groups are urging men to join jihad (holy war) and keep their women and children at home, they said.
More than 180 people, mostly militants, have died since Pakistani forces backed by helicopter gunships and jets started military operations in Bajaur a week ago.
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