Over 2,500 families have fled the restive Khyber tribal region in northwest Pakistan following deadly clashes between the Taliban and other militant groups, according to a media report on Wednesday.
The banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Islam and the pro-Government Ansar-ul-Islam and Qamarkhel militia have been engaged in a turf war in Khyber Agency for almost two weeks.
Over 100 Taliban fighters, 40 Ansar-ul-Islam militants, 23 Lashkar-e-Islam militants, 16 pro-Government militia members and several civilians have died in the fighting, which has led to authorities mulling a move to officially declaring the troubled Tirah Valley area a “war-hit zone”, The Express Tribune reported.
Witnesses said hundreds of stranded women and children were living without food, blankets or shelter in the winter wilderness after roads leading to Tirah Valley were sealed. Siraj Muhammad, a tribesman who reached Peshawar a day ago with 12 family members, said the people of several areas had been forced to move to Maidan in sub-zero temperatures.
Security forces were slowly allowing displaced families to enter Orakzai tribal region after thorough checks, he said. Like many others, Muhammad and his family walked about five kilometres and then hired a vehicle for Rs 14,000 to travel to Peshawar, where they are living with relatives.
Another displaced man, Yar Muhammad Khan, a school teacher, said he fled to Peshawar with his family two months ago due to worsening law and order in Tirah Valley. He is now living in a rented house.
The report said the influx of displaced people was increasing as the clashes in Khyber Agency entered a second week. Heavy rainfall in the area is making the journey even more difficult.
Around 1,500 families have migrated to Upper Tirah Valley, according to Tehreek-e-Mutasireen Khyber Agency chairman Sobat Khan Afridi.
The region is a stronghold of the Ansar-ul-Islam and relatively safe. Another 800 families moved to Orakzai Agency while 300 families fled to Peshawar. Afridi said some people reached Peshawar after travelling through Afghanistan and other areas.
In Khyber Agency, some 300 displaced families have been registered and were provided food and blankets, he said. According to Afridi, Khyber Agency Political Agent Mutahir Zeb has said the affected area will be declared a “war-hit zone” soon and displaced people will be registered in a refugee camp at Jalozai, making them eligible for aid.
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