Angry tribesmen took to the streets of the city of Khar after Pakistani forces shelled the town, killing between five and nine civilians and wounding several others when one of the shells destroyed their home. This is the latest in a series of attacks during Pakistan’s ongoing offensive, which has caused an enormous humanitarian crisis in the tiny tribal agency. On Friday the Red Cross announced an aid operation to help the displaced, which Pakistan’s Daily Times reported numbered over 300,000 since the operation began earlier this month. The most recent census in the agency showed an overall population of slightly under 600,000.
The AP visited two of the refugee camps, and described the conditions within as dismal. Provincial Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain praised the displacement, saying it was a “gesture of cooperation from the local people” for the operation, though several of the refugees reported that the Taliban had been paying drivers to help civilians flee the area.
The AP interviewed one of the displaced, a 60 year old woman named Haya Bibi, who tearfully pled for the combatants to resolve things peacefully. “We are the sufferers,” she said, as she and 45 of her relatives have spent he past week in a camp near Peshawar, “We don’t want the fighting.”
For their part, the Tehreeek-e Taliban has announced a unilateral cease-fire. Spokesman Maulvi Omar told the Agence France-Presse that after speaking with tribal elders “We have directed our militants to stop attacks against the government and security forces in Bajaur from today.” The elders reportedly had promised that if they stopped fighting, the Pakistani military would suspending shelling and bombing in the area.
However, shortly after the announcement Pakistani government spokesman Rehman Malik condemned the cease-fire as unacceptable, vowing to continue the offensive and demanding instead that all Taliban publicly surrender in the capital city of Islamabad.
compiled by Jason Ditz