20,000 Flee Pakistani Border Offensive
Army cracks down on Mohmand province al-Qaeda fighters
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 4, 2011 1:24 PM CST
File photo: Pakistan army soldiers escort families who fled their villages in Waziristan due to Pakistan army crackdown operations against al-Qaeda and Taliban militants, Dec. 10, 2010.   (AP Photo/Ishtiaq Mahsud)

(Newser) – A huge Pakistani army offensive against militants in the tribal region of Mohmand near the Afghan border has forced 20,000 to 25,000 people to flee their homes, officials and witnesses tell the BBC. The assault has been going on for a week now, and has killed 60 to 70 Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters, according to a military spokesman.

“Most people left the area due to fear of mines and other hazards, and we ourselves moved some of them for reasons of safety,” a local official says. The UN Refugee Agency says it’s registered some 22,000 at its two camps in the area. Mohmand has long served as a sanctuary for militants dispersed by Pakistani offensives in other tribal regions. Until recently, they’d been relatively quiet, but in recent weeks they’d bombed more than a dozen schools and checkpoints.