The Army claims to have “liberated” Mingora so it is odd to see “Thousands of residents flee conflict-hit Mingora”
But reading the stories about the state Mingora is in, it is hardly a surprise – No water, no electricity, no food, and no shelter after month long bombardment of the city:
After a month of fighting in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, aid groups have for the first time been allowed to assess the extent of damage, and they have expressed alarm about the humanitarian situation there.
The main city in the Swat Valley, Mingora, has been bombarded by artillery and street fighting for the past month.
Aid agencies say buildings and shops in the centre of town have been entirely flattened.
The Red Cross says there is no running water, no electricity and food scarcity in Mingora, which the army claims to have retaken from the Taliban.
Most of the 300,000 Mingora residents fled the city when the fighting broke out and some are now returning home, but the situation is still dire for those 40,000 residents left stranded by the fighting.
Chris Webster from World Vision in Islamabad says the scale of the need is “absolutely intense”.
“We’ve been meeting families who have taken in 90 people in one home,” he said.
“They’re all desperate for food, for water, for health care.
“These are poor communities at the best of times. The fact that they’ve had to receive so many people in such a short amount of time presents us with a massive humanitarian response to mount.”
The Red Cross says relief teams must be allowed immediate and unimpeded access to civilians in the Swat Valley.
More than 2.5 million people have been displaced by the fighting between Taliban militants and the Pakistan military, the largest movement of people since the country was created 62 years ago.
The United Nations is now stepping up its pleas for contributions towards a $543 million fund to help meet immediate needs of those displaced and help the damaged areas.
Pakistan’s government says the army will continue to pursue rebels and Taliban leaders.
The country’s defence secretary, Syed Athar Ali, told a security meeting of Asian nations in Singapore that the offensive should be over in the next few days.
“Only five to 10 per cent [of the] job is remaining and hopefully within the next two to three days these pockets of resistance will be cleared,” he said.
“Thereafter the reconstruction work will start.”
But Gohar Ali says many people are still afraid to leave their houses.
“As the army enter the area, they killed only civilians, they did not kill Taliban,” he said.
“I saw the Taliban in Mingora. The army killed no more than 20 Taliban. Around 3,000 civilians are killed in this war.
“Yesterday I saw two people who came out because the army asked them for relief goods and then they opened fire on them from the mountains.”
A lecturer in South Asian politics at the University of Adelaide, Dr Peter Mayer, says despite the civilian casualties there is widespread public support for the army’s campaign against the Taliban.
He says the next front for the Pakistan army will be southern Waziristan, another Taliban stronghold.
“Groups that have formed the core of the Taliban there – the clans, the tribes – are ferocious fighters. They are extremely well equipped,” he said.
“It is going to be very, very hard going and I anticipate that similar numbers will be displaced.
“I am already reading reports of people already leaving the area in anticipation as the monsoon comes. [It will be a] wet summer of very brutal fighting further to the south.”
Over the weekend 40 Taliban militants were killed in a gun battle with soldiers at a camp near the Afghan border.