US envoy seeks more world aid amid Pakistan offensive

June 4th, 2009 - 8:30 pm ICT by IANS  

Richard Holbrooke Islamabad, June 4 (DPA) US special envoy Richard Holbrooke appealed Thursday for more world assistance to help families uprooted by the anti-insurgency operation in north-western Pakistan, where the military claimed it had killed 10 more militants.
Pakistan’s offensive to rout Taliban militants, whose advance to within 100 km of the capital, Islamabad, in April had set off alarm bells in the international community, has displaced nearly 2.5 million people since May 2.

Holbrooke, who visited a refugee camp in Swabi, about 80 km north-west of Islamabad, said he hoped European as well as Muslim countries would pump more aid into Pakistan to alleviate the humanitarian crisis there.

“We stand with Pakistan in this moment of challenge and crisis,” Holbrooke told reporters. “Over half of all the aid in the world for Pakistan’s displaced people is from the US.”

The United Nations made an appeal for $543 million last month, but just more than one-fifth of the desired assistance had so far been received.

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton committed $110 million in immediate humanitarian assistance to help the refugees, and Washington is close to providing an additional $200 million for the purpose.

Holbrooke stressed Thursday that “the suffering is caused by the Taliban and Al Qaeda”.

His remarks came as Pakistani security forces claimed the killings of another 10 “terrorists” in the Swat Valley, where they have retaken several key towns from the Taliban, including the main city of Mingora.

Six militants were killed at a checkpoint in the Shangla area as they tried to flee the region while four others were killed in the Baidarra area, the army said in a statement.

One soldier died in a militant raid on troops in Swat’s adjoining district of Lower Dir.

According to the military, more than 1,250 Taliban fighters have been killed during five weeks of intense clashes. The count could not be confirmed independently as the conflict zones have largely been closed to reporters.

The offensive has raised fears of a violent backlash from the militants, who had carried out a spate of attacks in settled areas of the country to avenge the onslaught.

The latest action came Monday when the Taliban seized scores of cadets and staff of an army-run college in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal district on the border with Afghanistan.

However, the last of the hostages from the Razmak Cadet College were released Thursday.

“Forty-six students and two teachers are now in the custody of the security forces,” said Major General Athar Abbas, chief military spokesman.

Several dozen people from the school managed to evade capture Monday, and troops recovered 71 students and nine staff members the next day as their abductors tried to move them to the adjoining South Waziristan district, a known Al Qaeda and Taliban sanctuary.

Government authorities in the lawless region had been working with local tribesmen for the past two days to secure the students’ release.

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