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Thousands flee as Pakistan attacks militants in North Waziristan

By Ralph Ellis, CNN
updated 12:02 AM EDT, Fri June 20, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Civilians flee North Waziristan as planes strike militants
  • 60,000 flee, reports a U.N.-supported news agency
  • The government says schools will available to shelter civilians
  • Seven people killed when gunmen opened fire

(CNN) -- The evacuation of thousands of Pakistani civilians has become a major challenge as military planes attacked suspected anti-government militant hideouts in North Waziristan.

More than 60,000 people, many of them children, have fled for safer areas in Pakistan and Afghanistan, according to a United Nations-supported news network that reports on humanitarian efforts. The Integrated Regional Information Networks said Pakistani authorities haven't set up camps yet.

But Pakistani officials said school buildings in the Bannu, Lakki Marwat, Tank, Karak and Hangu districts would be opened as shelters for people fleeing the conflict.

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Pakistan on Sunday launched a military operation in North Waziristan, a restive province near the border with Afghanistan,in an attempt to "finish off" militants in the area "once and for all," Defense Minister Khawaja Asif told CNN. The Pakistani Taliban is among the targets.

Scores of vehicles have moved toward North Waziristan to evacuate the stranded people. Local tribesmen complain that transporters are charging high rates because there's a severe shortage of vehicles.

A registration point has been established at Saidge near Bakkakhel and a camp has also been set up at Baran Dam, the government said.

Two women were among seven civilians killed in Hangu when gunmen opened fire on them Wednesday.

Police spokesman Noor Mohammed said unidentified men trespassed into a house and killed the seven people. Mohammed told CNN the killing may be sectarian in nature.

Sources: Drone strike kills 6 in North Waziristan, Pakistan

CNN's Aliza Kassim and journalist Zahir Shah Shirazi contributed to this report.

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