Exodus expected to intensify as Pakistan targets Taliban
BANNU, Pakistan — Residents of a Taliban-infested region in northwest Pakistani where the military rolled out a major offensive began to flee on Wednesday when authorities lifted a curfew there, officials said.
The military says the long-awaited offensive will target local and foreign militants who use the North Waziristan region as a base to attack Pakistan. The United States has pushed Pakistan repeatedly to take action against militant groups in the region that target Afghan and NATO troops in Afghanistan.
So far the offensive has largely relied on airstrikes, but the easing of the curfew to allow residents to leave could indicate a more intense ground offensive is in the making.
A disaster management authority official, Dil Nawaz Khan, said the agency did not have an exact count of how many people left after the curfew was eased but estimated it was hundreds of families.
Roughly 63,000 people left the North Waziristan tribal region in the weeks before the offensive began on Sunday, fleeing previous airstrikes and because of fears of a larger offensive. Authorities expect another 130,000 people to be displaced in the coming days, said Arshad Khan, the head of the disaster management authority.