About 80 boys and 20 staffers in an orphanage were trapped during intense fighting between the Pakistani military and the Taliban Wednesday, the orphanage director said.
The children trapped in the four-story building in the town of Mingora in Pakistan’s Swat Valley felt as if they were under siege because the fighting was so close, said Muhammad Ali, director of the orphanage. Staff members said they only had enough food to last two more days. Fighting had intensified in the area as an eyewitness saw 15 dead civilians being taken from a village in Mingora Wednesday. Twelve of the dead were children. Pakistan’s TV station Dawn News reported that 35 civilians and 15 Taliban fighters were killed in the area Wednesday . Ali said he is asking the military and the Taliban to not the attack the orphanage, which is about 60 meters (65 yards) away from the military headquarters in Mingora.
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The orphanage usually houses about 250 male orphans who also receive schooling there. But about 170 orphans were taken to different locations. There are also 450 other students who attend school there during the day, but do not live there. An estimated 40,000 people fled Mingora in northwestern Pakistan, as military clashes raged on Wednesday, said Khushhal Khan, district coordination officer in the area. Watch as thousands flee military offensive » This fighting comes a day after local government officials issued an evacuation order for the Swat area. Some 500,000 civilians are expected to flee the area ahead of an expected military offensive in the Taliban-dominated region. See a map of Taliban-controlled areas » For the last two weeks, Pakistani troops have already been battling Taliban fighters in Buner and Lower Dir, two districts bordering Swat. Army generals claim troops have killed scores of militants.
U.S. President Barack Obama is due to hold talks Wednesday with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai to discuss regional security. A senior administration official told reporters that the U.S. objective of the meetings is “an alliance with these countries against a shared threat.”