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Story Publication logo April 24, 2009

Caught in Pakistan's Crossfire


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In the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks and the Obama administration's announcement of troop...

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The day is closing in Jellozai and children run along the narrow dusty rows of UNICEF-stamped tents trying to squeeze a little more play time out of the dying evening. Some 43,000 people live in this refugee camp just outside of Peshawar, after fleeing violence in the tribal regions not far from here.

Beginning last summer, intensified clashes between Taliban militants and the Pakistani military — as well as U.S. drone attacks — have created chaos in the ungoverned tribal belt between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

As civilians find themselves caught between Taliban violence and Pakistan and American military strikes, 600,000 refugees have fled to the relative safety of camps like this one, or taken refuge with family members living in Pakistan's urban centers.

Tahseen Ullah Khan, Chief Coordinator of the National Resource & Development Foundation, a Peshawar-based nonprofit, has become sadly familiar with the realities of that human toll as he's begun to gather data about civilian causalities, injuries and displacement in northwestern Pakistan.

"When the military comes into these areas, they bring the war machine," Khan says over an avalanche of grizzly photos and handwritten testimonials of death and displacement spilling over the top of his desk, "And everything is destroyed behind it."

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