Pakistani military jets and artillery continued to pound the South Waziristan Agency this evening, killing at least eight additional civilians including three women and three children, in the run-up to a long promised military offensive against the tribal area.
The agency has been bombing persistantly for months, between US drone attacks and the Pakistani military and government’s repeated threats against the Mehsud tribals that live in the area.
Pakistan’s Army says it is “determined” to launch an invasion of the region some time soon, a move which the US has been pressuring them to take for years. But many civilians decided they weren’t going to wait.
With plenty of advanced warning and examples in Bajaur, Khyber and Malakand of the disastrous affect military offensives have on the civilian population, people have been fleeing since May. Now at least 200,000 South Waziristan civilians, an estimated 40% of the agency’s population, have already fled to cities in the nearby Northwest Frontier Province, principally Tank and Dera Ismail Khan.
As has often been the case in such incursions, the government does not appear to be making any formal provision for the fleeing civilians, who instead have to rely on relatives or private charity.