Page last updated at 17:33 GMT, Monday, 11 May 2009 18:33 UK

UN to deliver urgent Pakistan aid

UNHCR camp in Pakistan, 11 May 2009
Thousands of Pakistanis have fled to camps from the fighting

The United Nations is to deliver urgently needed humanitarian aid to Pakistan's north-west as thousands flee fighting between the army and Taleban.

The UN, which has extensive operations in Pakistan, said it would deliver plastic sheets, 10,000 mosquito nets and two portable warehouses.

It also called on international help for the 360,000 Pakistanis who have fled the intensive fighting this month.

The army offensive against Taleban fighters in the Swat valley continues.

Fighter jets, helicopter gunships and artillery pounded suspected militant positions, preparing the ground for what may become a street-to-street battle, said the BBC's Barbara Plett in Islamabad.

The exodus of citizens has prompted the Pakistan government and aid agencies to establish more camps for displaced people, and to expand an existing one.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said: "This is a huge and rapidly unfolding emergency which is going to require considerable resources beyond those that currently exist in the region."

A woman evacuated from the Swat valley joins a rally calling for better humanitarian assistance from the government, 9 May, location unspecified

He said the number of fleeing Pakistanis was more than the 360,000 registered with his agency, as not everyone was registered and people continued to flee.

"These are the same people who for decades showed great generosity to millions of Afghan refugees," he said.

"Now it is time for the international community to show them the same generosity by supporting humanitarian programmes for the Pakistani displaced."

Local stockpiles of basic aid, such as tents, kitchen sets, jerry cans, sleeping mats and blankets, were being distributed, the UN agency said.

Aid agencies have predicted that one million people could be displaced from this and earlier conflicts.

Many of the people in the camps back the action against the Taleban, but are angry that they had to leave suddenly and with almost no belongings, our correspondent reports.

If they do not get services, that anger could switch to support for the militants, she adds.

The battle will have to be won not only militarily in Swat, but politically in the camps.

Suicide attack

Earlier, at least six people were killed and 10 injured in a suicide car bomb attack on a checkpoint near the city of Peshawar.

One paramilitary soldier was among those killed at the Spintana checkpoint near the tribal town of Darra Adam Khel. Most of the injured were also security personnel.

No-one has as yet said they carried out the attack.

Pakistan's military said it had killed 200 militants in and near the Swat valley during weekend fighting.

Pakistan's government signed a peace agreement with the Swat Taleban in February, allowing Sharia law there, a move sharply criticised by Washington.

The militants then moved towards the capital, Islamabad, causing further alarm.

Up to 15,000 troops have now been deployed in the Swat valley and neighbouring areas to take on up to 5,000 militants.


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