Held hostage: Militants of Tehreek-i-Taliban — the Pakistani Taliban and one of the Islamist groups targeted by the military — guard kidnapped police and Frontier Corps personnel in Matta, a town in Swat valley, on Sept. 14, 2008. Kidnapping of security forces and government officials is one of the many ways Islamist militant groups are wreaking havoc in northwest Pakistan. Foreigners have also been abducted, including a Polish engineer, an Iranian diplomat, and a Canadian journalist. In the past 19 months, attacks by militants have killed more than 1,500 people in Pakistan.
School’s out, forever: Students gather outside their school after it was destroyed by militants in Kundar village of Swat Valley on Jan. 17. In December 2008, a Taliban leader threatened to kill any girls going to school after Jan. 15 and to bomb any schools that allowed girls. Since 2007, nearly 200 schools have been destroyed or damaged, including more than 100 schools for girls. The Taliban’s threats don’t just hurt girls’ education; they create a panic that keeps boys from coming to class, too.
Making a point: The Pakistani Army patrols the empty village of Spinkai on May 18, 2008, four months after it was razed in a collective punishment that was part of Operation Zalzala, an effort to flush out Taliban militants led by Baitullah Mehsud. The Army found bomb factories and a school for suicide bombers. As punishment for providing the militants a haven, the Army destroyed the village’s bazaar and shops. “I should have destroyed everyone’s house, but I didn’t. Call it my weakness. Call it kindness,” one brigadier told The Guardian.
Unhappy campers: Some 24,000 people live in utter misery in the 3,500-tent Jalozai camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) near Peshawar, seen here on Feb. 21. “Life here is difficult. We cannot adjust to a situation where we live just like cattle,” a 35-year-old farmer told IRIN, a U.N. news agency. More than 300,000 people in northwest Pakistan were displaced in the six months from August 2008 to February 2009, Pakistani government officials have said. More than 450,000 people total have been displaced, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees estimates, and the number could reach 600,000.
Holiday’s over: Swat Valley, in the North-West Frontier Province, was once called the “Switzerland of Pakistan” because of its bucolic mountains. Home to the country’s only ski resort, it attracted international tourists for skiing in the winter and cool mountain hikes in the summer. Today, the lucrative tourism industry has been decimated. Swat Valley is now effectively run by the Taliban. Followers of Islamist leader Maulana Fazlullah have spent nearly two years terrorizing the populace, enforcing their extremist interpretation of sharia and beheading opponents. Above, a displaced boy tends his sheep in Swat Valley on Feb. 7.
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