Over 100,000 persons flee Khyber fighting: UNHCR

Staff Reporter

Saturday, March 31, 2012 - Peshawar—Over 100,000 people have fled fighting between government troops and Taliban or al Qaeda-linked militants in northwest Pakistan since January 20, the UN refugee agency said Friday. “An estimated 101,160 people, mostly women and children, have become displaced since January 20 when government troops began security operations against militant groups in the Khyber” tribal district, said the UNHCR in a statement, says a massage received here from Geneva. The agency warned that a recent increase in the intensity of combat was pushing even larger numbers of families to flee the region to Jalozai camp, located close to the western Pakistan city of Peshawar.

An average of 2,000 families has been arriving daily at the camp since March 17, said the UNHCR. “New arrivals say that they have left their homes because of the proximity of fighting and due to instructions by the authorities to evacuate the area,” it added.

This is not the first time that the people of Khyber district have suffered from clashes between the army and militants. In October last year, at least 18,000 people were reported to have fled their homes in Khyber, fearing a similar onslaught of fighting between the army and militants.

It is also reported that the United Nation’s Humanitarian Coordinator, Timo Pakkala, and UNHCR Representative, Neil Wright visited the Jalozai camp in KPK to personally supervise the registration of internally displaced persons from the Khyber Agency.

The UN refugee agency has registered nearly 50,000 internally displaced persons from the Khyber Agency at Jalozai since mid-March.

Families who have fled their homes in Khyber Agency register with UNHCR this week at the Jalozai camp in KPK. Registered families are now receiving a package of humanitarian assistance by the UN agencies. Jalozai refugee camp, which is situated some 33 km southeast of Peshawar, earlier served as one of the largest camp for Afghan refugees.

The camps also had an additional influx of refugees in the period after 9/11, leading up to the United States invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001. In February 2002, the Jalozai camp was formally closed but later re-opened after Pakistan launched its own war against terrorists and militants.

According to local politicians due to the present military operation in Bara, all the educational institutions and business centers are closed and constant curfew had made the life of the people miserable.

Locals say that until early March more than 50,000 families had left their houses of various areas of the agency including Sipah, Aaka Khel, Malik Deen Khel, Shalober Komber Khel, Bar Komber Khel, Kamar Khel and Zaha Khel and had to take refuge in camps.

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