Pakistani Helicopters Drop Troops Into Taliban Stronghold

Pakistan ( RPRN) 05/12/09–Pakistani officials say army helicopters dropped troops behind enemy lines in the Swat Valley Tuesday as part of an ongoing offensive against Taliban militants.

Military officials said the troops landed in the remote Piochar area in the upper reaches of the valley that had been under Taliban control.

Pakistan’s Interior Ministry has said that some 700 militants have been killed in the offensive since it began last week. The death toll cannot be independently verified.

Several temporary camps in the region are full, and rental property in nearby cities is scarce, leaving many residents with nowhere to go as they flee the violence. The United Nations estimates that more than 360,000 people have been displaced since last week. They join some 500,000 other people who have been displaced by violence in other northwestern areas in the past year.

On Monday, the U.N. refugee agency said it would airlift 120 tons of emergency aid to the internally displaced in the area. The United States also pledged $4.9 million in emergency aid to displaced families.

Meanwhile, Pakistani officials say a suspected U.S. drone (unmanned) aircraft fired missiles Tuesday, killing at least eight people near the Afghan border.

Officials said the attack took place in South Waziristan, an area considered to be an al-Qaida and Pakistani Taliban stronghold. The victims’ identities were not immediately known.

The U.S. military has not immediately commented on the Pakistani allegations.

Suspected U.S. drones have carried out at least 30 missile strikes on militant targets in northwest Pakistan over the past year.

The United States rarely discusses the strikes, which Pakistan has criticized as counterproductive and a violation of its sovereignty.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.