Some 25,000 refugees flee Pakistan tribal zone: UN

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Some 25,000 people have fled in just a week from the tribal zones of northwest Pakistan, a Taliban stronghold, following a military campaign launched against the militants, a UN official said Friday.

Should the fighting intensify against the insurgents in the region, up to 90,000 people could be driven out of their homes by the end of February, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman Adrian Edwards said.

The UN built two new camps to host people fleeing the Sagi and Dawezai areas since the military campaign intensified on January 27, and many arrived with "little more than the clothes on their backs," Edwards said.

The UN agency urged Pakistani authorities to allow refugees to move more towards the south, close to Peshawar, where many have family relatives.

Islamabad prefers them to stay close to their former homes in order to facilitate their return once the campaign is over.

Waves of conflict in Pakistan's tribal areas in the northwest, close to the Afghan border, have left around a million people displaced, the UN estimates. But less than a fifth have returned home.

The areas are outposts of the Pakistan's Taliban, the main bastion for Al-Qaeda operations in the world.

© 2011 AFP

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