Fighting prompts Pakistanis to flee
UN says 20,000 go to Afghanistan
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Heavy fighting between Pakistani troops and insurgents in the lawless tribal regions of the country's northwest has caused some 20,000 Pakistanis to flee across the border into Afghanistan, the United Nations said yesterday.
"In the last two weeks alone, over 600 Pakistani families [around 20,000 people] have fled into Afghanistan," the UN refugee agency said.
The refugees have gone to Afghanistan's Kunar province, which is itself plagued by fighting between Islamic militants and Afghan troops backed by US-led coalition forces.
Pakistani officials estimate the fighting in Bajur has displaced as many as 500,000 people who have sought refuge elsewhere within Pakistan.
Most have been taken in by relatives across northwestern Pakistan, though about 100,000 are living in camps.
In a separate development yesterday, the Pakistani military released statistics showing that suicide attacks have killed nearly 1,200 people in Pakistan since July 2007, most of them civilians.
Nuclear-armed Pakistan has seen a surge in attacks by Islamic extremists since the July 2007 army attack on militants holed up in Islamabad's radical Red Mosque, during which about 100 people were killed.
Figures released at a military briefing said 88 suicide attacks had taken place across Pakistan since the Red Mosque siege, killing 1,188 people. Of those, 847 were civilians and 341 were troops or police. More than 3,000 people were wounded.
The statistics also said 1,368 security force personnel had been killed since late 2001, when Pakistan's former military ruler, President Pervez Musharraf, allied with Washington in the war against terrorist movements after the Sept. 11 attack on the United States.