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Pakistans regjering og hær fikk endelig mannet seg opp til å gå løs på Taliban i Swat-dalen. Men det skjer med en brutalitet som gjør at man må spørre: hva vil resultatet bli? Kan det bli flere rekrutter til Taliban?

Selve krigen – med sivilbefolkningen mellom to fronter – er i seg selv ødeleggende for menneskene: de er inneklemt, mangler mat og vann, og tør ikke forlate sine hus og hjem, da blir alt plyndret. Denne mangel på lov og orden er en stor trussel mot myndighetenes autoritet.

Statsminister Yusuf Gilani sa hæren kjempet for landets overlevelse. Men når man hører om måten det skjer på, oppstår helt andre spørsmål.

Heavy artillery fire could be heard yesterday in Saidu Sharif, just over a mile from Mingora. One resident said there had been heavy casualties but people were unable to move out of their houses to tend the injured or to bury or count the dead.

A medical student who stayed in Mingora to help treat the wounded told The Sunday Times: «The electricity has been suspended for a week. The health situation is very bad; there are only three doctors in the main district hospital. Please keep praying for us.»

He said many inhabitants had remained in their homes because they feared their possessions would be looted. «People who left their homes, all their stuff was taken, even the plates and spoons were not spared by both army and Taliban so people are afraid of leaving.»

The student added that the army seemed determined to flush out the militants. «For the first time, they are killing Taliban,» he said. «Till now it was just a show-off to the world in which only civilians were killed.»

Afrasiab Khattak, a Pakistani senator who acted for the North West Frontier’s provincial government in a controversial peace agreement in which the Taliban won effective control of the valley and imposed sharia, or religious law, last month, highlighted concerns for a «densely populated area».

«The Taliban came down from the mountains when the military operations started and are using the people as human shields,» he said.

Residents reached by telephone in the village of Matta, 12 miles outside Mingora, said they were terrified of being caught in the crossfire but could not leave because of the curfew imposed by security forces and the Taliban’s claims that they had mined surrounding roads.

«Every minute brings a message of death to me and my family,» said Muhammad Khan, under siege with 25 family members. «We’re running out of food and water. We can hear the thud of artillery and mortar shells and the sound of helicopters. We are at the mercy of God now. Only he can save my family.»

John Butt, a Muslim chaplain at Cambridge University who set up a radio station in Swat last year, said he was hearing similar tales. «In the village where I lived in Madyan district they tell me the military are entrenched and the militants [are] in the next valley so they, the civilians, are being caught in the crossfire,» he said.

He added that he was extremely worried about the 10 staff of his radio station in Mingora. «There is no electricity or phone and I haven’t heard from them for several days,» he said.

The military operation could drive more civilians to support the militants, he warned. «It looks good to say ‘We’re fighting the militants’, but it’s the civilians who are the victims. In that part of the world if you kill 10 civilians, you make 100 enemies.»

Det bor 1,5 million mennesker i Swat, som en gang var et utviklet område. Nå føler folk seg helt overlatt til seg selv.

Trapped by Taliban terror