Page last updated at 19:13 GMT, Tuesday, 21 July 2009 20:13 UK

Pakistan refugees 'return home'

Pakistani displaced families return to Mingora, capital of Pakistan"s troubled Swat Valley, Monday, July 20, 2009
Those returning to Mingora have found buildings destroyed by battle

At least 350,000 people have returned home to the strife-torn Pakistani region of Swat, officials say.

They were forced to flee after the army launched an operation against Taliban militants in the Malakand region, which includes Swat.

The army says its now safe for them to go back as the area has been cleared of militants.

But intermittent clashes continue, with with army saying it has killed 50 Taliban in the last two days.

At least 14 militants are reported to have been killed since Sunday evening in clashes in the Swat valley, army officials say.

The killings occurred as searches were being conducted in the Matta and Kabal areas, both of which remain off-limits to people returning to their homes.

One army officer was also reported to have been killed in the operations.

The violence comes after the government closed two camps in the north-west, as people continue returning to Swat.

The BBC's Syed Shoaib Hasan in Islamabad says that their return home is emotional and not without tragedy.

Destroyed homes and unburied bodies lie in wait for them.

The government says it is doing its utmost to provide relief to those returning, but our correspondent says that it appears unable to remove the most pressing fear of those going back - that the militants have only staged a tactical retreat despite the military's claims that they are on the run.

Intermittent clashes are continuing in the Maidan area of Lower Dir district, with the army saying it has killed dozens of militants in the past two days.

There is no independent confirmation of the claims.

Maidan has been the target of army fire since May and there are also occasional house searches in the area.

Exchange of fire

The army says that it killed two militant commanders in remote villages in the Matta area, north-west of Mingora, Swat's main city.

It also says that 12 more militants were "reportedly" killed in an exchange of fire in the Kabal area. The army spokesman said that he had no confirmation about these deaths.

However the army did confirm that one officer, Maj Zahid, died during the exchange of fire in Kabal.

It says that it is now in the early stages of an assault against Taliban hideouts in the tribal district of Waziristan.


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