Pakistan ‘To Eliminate Militants’; Red Cross Warns of Refugee ‘Crisis’
Pakistan’s PM says he has ordered the army to “eliminate militants and terrorists”, apparently referring to operations against the Taleban.
Yusuf Raza Gilani made the announcement in an evening TV address to the nation.
Fighting has intensified in recent days in the Swat Valley and other parts of the north-west, and thousands of civilians are leaving the area.
US defence secretary Robert Gates earlier said he was satisfied with Pakistan’s anti-Taleban moves.
At least 10 soldiers have been killed in the fighting in the past 24 hours, the military says.
Appeal for help
Mr Gilani said efforts by the militants to disrupt peace and security had reached a point where the government had to take “decisive steps”.
“In order to restore honour and dignity of our homeland, and to protect people, the armed forces have been called to eliminate the militants and terrorists,” he said.
He also appealed to the international community to help Pakistan look after people displaced by the fighting. >>>
At a White House summit, Obama says he and the other leaders ‘fully appreciate’ the regional threat posed by Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
President Obama and the leaders of Pakistan and Afghanistan, setting aside months of friction, committed themselves again Wednesday to their faltering joint effort against Taliban and Al Qaeda extremists.
After a day of talks, Obama said he was satisfied that the leaders “fully appreciate the seriousness of the threats we face and have reaffirmed their commitment to confronting it.”
Obama also moved to quell any doubts about U.S. support for the two beleaguered presidents, Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan and Hamid Karzai of neighboring Afghanistan, saying Washington’s backing would not waver. >>>
With their possessions piled on pickup trucks or escaping on foot, thousands of people were reported to be fleeing the conflict in Pakistan’s Swat Valley on Thursday as the International Committee of the Red Cross said that up to half a million people may have been uprooted by the fighting.
The international body, based in Geneva, also said the conflict between government forces and Taliban militants had severed its access to places where civilians most needed help and that a humanitarian crisis was worsening. >>>
In the Swat valley, refugees are counting the cost of war – in human lives, dislocation and for mother of four, Amina Jan, in taxi fares.
As government officials in Swat relaxed a curfew and urged the local population to leave quickly as the offensive gathers steam, taxis – often the only way out of the area – jacked up their prices fivefold; a trip to Islamabad costing as much as Rps20,000 (US$250)….
Swat was best remembered as a destination of choice for honeymooning couples. The local population was largely friendly, warmly receiving tourists every summer to destinations such as Kalam – the scenic town on a riverside where the government’s tourism department built an affordable motel for travellers on a modest budget.
Officials in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) where Swat is located, believe up to three quarters of a million or more may be displaced by the fighting and pressed to head out of the valley for a more secure environment. While UN officials agree that there is a catastrophe in the making, opinion is still divided over the scale of the outflow. >>>