Trapped Pakistani residents emerge seeking food

MINGORA, Pakistan — People trapped at home for weeks emerged in search of food at barren shops while corpses lay exposed in the Swat Valley's main city Sunday. A Pakistani official suggested the army offensive against the Taliban in the region could end in days.

Elsewhere along the Afghan border area, dozens of militants died in clashes with soldiers in a tribal region, fighting that could nudge the military to expand its offensive beyond Swat.

A reporter who visited Mingora a day after the army declared it was secured saw many damaged buildings. Two decomposing bodies, apparently those of insurgents, lay unburied in a cemetery; a third charred corpse lay near a shopping mall.

"We have been starving for many days. We have been cooking tree leaves to keep ourselves alive. Thank God it is over," said Afzal Khan. "We need food. We need help. We want peace."

Pakistan launched an offensive against militants in Swat and surrounding districts after they violated the terms of a cease-fire and advanced into a region close to the capital, Islamabad.

Speaking in Singapore, Pakistan's defense secretary predicted that the army would clear remaining militant strongholds in the valley in "two to three days." Pakistan's military spokesman said that assessment was overly optimistic.

The Swat offensive has earned U.S. praise as troops have regained large swaths of the region from an estimated 4,000 militants. The fighting has forced up to 3 million people to evacuate.

In the South Waziristan tribal region, meanwhile, insurgent attacks on an army convoy and checkpoint Saturday night sparked clashes that left scores dead. About 50 militants and two soldiers were killed, according to two intelligence officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

A Taliban commander in South Waziristan said only two militants died.

More than 1,200 militants have been killed in the Swat offensive, according to the military — a figure that cannot be independently verified.

Trapped Pakistani residents emerge seeking food 05/31/09 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 4:50pm]

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