Civilian casualties anger people in Pakistan

May 19th, 2009 - 10:36 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Islamabad, May 19 (DPA) A mayor in Pakistan’s northwestern Lower Dir district threatened to rise against the military troops if the “indiscriminate firing and bombardment that mainly kills the civilians” was not stopped.
“This operation is only killing the civilians. On one side the government has held the people in the conflict zone by imposing indefinite curfew, and on the other hand it is making no distinction between the civilian and militant targets,” said Ahmad Hassan.

“If things continue this way, let alone Taliban, we will ourselves rise against them (the military),” the district mayor added.

The statement came as the helicopter gunships pounded two villages around Timar Girah, the main town in Lower Dir.

“We are getting information from the locals here that some civilians have been killed. The numbers are not known yet. We can see smoke rising from the villages,” a local journalist Haroon Rashid said over phone from Timar Girah.

The action came a day after some one dozen people, including women and children, were killed and scores of others were injured when families fleeing the military operation from Swat district to Upper Dir, the district that adjoins Lower Dir, were attacked by a helicopter gunships.

The English-language daily The News, citing eyewitnesses, reported Tuesday that the helicopter also fired at those who tried to help the victims. At that stage, people fled and abandoned the dead and injured.

The operation in Swat and its neighbouring districts was launched in April after a peace deal between the government and Taliban broke down.

According to the government claims the offensive has eliminated 1,000 of the estimated over 4,000 militants. At least 55 security personnel have also died.

The authorities have remained silent about the civilian casualties. But local residents say that the civilian losses were massive not only in terms of human lives but also property.

The action has also triggered a mass exodus from the conflict areas. According to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, 1.4 million displaced people have been registered so far.

Analysts have warned that the existing vast public support for the military operation might be undermined by massive civilian casualties.

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