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Pakistan refugees face deepening crisis

Issue No. 2153

The offensive by the Pakistani military against insurgents in the Swat Valley has created a refugee crisis.

There are fears that a humanitarian catastrophe could grip the 1.5 million people who have fled the offensive.

Pakistan’s Red Crescent medical organisation is warning of “insurmountable hardships” as only a fraction of refugees have found shelter.

Fears are also mounting for those who could not afford the exorbitant fees being charged to evacuate civilians from the warzone.

Water and electricity have been cut and the main hospital in Swat has been abandoned.

One refugee told the International Red Cross that “the army imposed a curfew on my village, and fighting broke out all around. We were so scared. Within a week, we had run out of food.”

The offensive is part of an expanding war by the US and its allies in Afghanistan. They have been demanding that Pakistan move against insurgent bases along the country’s border with Afghanistan.

The fighting triggered uprisings and the growth of a local insurgency.

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Tue 26 May 2009, 18:19 BST
Issue No. 2153
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