PARACHINAR, Pakistan (AP) — A new offensive by the Pakistani military against militants in a northwestern tribal area has displaced thousands of people in the past week, an official said Wednesday.
For years, Pakistan has been battling militant groups such as the Taliban in the tribal regions bordering Afghanistan. Civilians are often caught in the middle of the fighting, and hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced over the years of conflict.
About a week ago, the military launched a new push in Kurram, one of seven Pakistani tribal regions near the Afghan border, the official and displaced people said.
Details of the fighting have not been revealed so far but on Wednesday, Mujahid Hussain, chief of disaster management efforts in the Kurram tribal area said an estimated 35,000 and 49,000 have left their villages in the area.
The Pakistani military has launched numerous operations in the past to displace militants based in Kurram and other areas who often travel back and forth into Afghanistan.
Most of those who fled are staying with relatives but Hussain says tents would be set up in a refugee camp near the city of Parachinar for those who have nowhere to go.
A local resident who fled said the fighting started on May 8 in the central part of the Kurram region, forcing people to flee their homes.
"We don't know from which side these mortars and shells are coming from, but we were the ultimate victims and we had no option but to leave our homes in haste," said Malik Hayat Khan, speaking at a press conference Tuesday in Parachinar.
Another person who fled, Sadeen Khan, said many families had to spend all their money on hiring a vehicle to help them flee the area. "Whatever cash we had we spent on transportation to save our children," he said.
Often when families are displaced from conflicts in the tribal areas, they stay with family members or rent homes. But if the conflict drags on and they're not able to return home, they run out of money and are sometimes forced to move into camps run by the government or aid groups.