Pakistani soldiers and militants engaged in fierce gunbattles across the Swat Valley again today, and the military claimed it had captured certain important portions of Mingora, the region’s largest city. Despite reports of attacks by helicopter gunships, the death toll in the latest fighting was surprisingly sparse, with official reports saying 10 Taliban and 3 soldiers were killed.
The military briefly lifted its curfew on the towns of Matta and Khawazakhela as well today, allowing 15 trucks into the northern valley, where 200,000 civilians remain trapped. The northern Swatis had reported a shortage of foodstuffs, though it is unclear how much relief the 15 trucks will actually provide.
In Mingora itself, the fighting was going street-to-street. The army estimated that between 10,000 and 20,000 civilians remain trapped in the city, which has a population of around 375,000 residents. The rest have fled to the somewhat less violent portions of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP).
However, as the refugee camps in the NWFP fill up, the governments of the neighboring Punjab and Sindh Provinces have decided to bar the displaced from entering. Both provinces are playing host to hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees, however the millions of displaced Swatis will be forced, at least for now, to remain in what few portions of the NWFP have room for them.
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