Suspected Islamic militants
armed with guns and grenades stormed the offices of a Christian relief and
development organization in northwest Pakistan today, killing six aid workers
and wounding seven others.
The gunmen besieged the
offices of international humanitarian organization World Vision near Oghi, about 50 miles north of Islamabad in Mansehra district of the North
West Frontier Province (NWFP). Police and World Vision’s regional spokesman said
the Pakistani staff members, including two women, were killed after up to 15
gunmen arrived in pick-up trucks and began firing.
“They gathered all of
us in one room,” World Vision administration officer Mohammad Sajid, who was in
the office at the time, told Compass. “The gunmen, some of whom had their faces
covered, also snatched our mobile phones. They dragged people one by one and
shifted them to an adjacent room and shot and killed
Rienk van Velzen, World
Vision’s regional communications director, said from the Netherlands that all
staff members in the office were Pakistanis. He said one is missing.
The organization has
been operating in the area since October 2005, when aid workers flooded into the
northwest after a 7.6-magnitude earthquake killed more than 73,000 people and
left about 3.5 million homeless.
But many charities have
since left the area as Islamist violence soared. In February 2008, four aid
workers with the British-based group Plan International were killed in a similar
gun and grenade attack in Mansehra town.
Police said the
militants escaped into the hills.
“Police rushed to the
area after receiving information about the attack, but the attackers managed to
flee,” senior police officer Waqar Ahmed said. “We chased them, there was an
exchange of fire, but the gunmen escaped into the
Ahmed blamed the attack
on “the same people who are destroying our schools” – a reference to Taliban
militants opposed to co-education who have blown up hundreds of schools across
the northwest in the past three years.
“Now they want to
disturb relief work in quake-hit areas,” Ahmed said.
World Vision’s website
says the aid group is “inspired by our Christian values” but stresses that it
does not proselytize or predicate aid on a person’s faith.
Foreign targets are
rarely attacked directly in Pakistan, despite the chronic insecurity in the
nuclear-armed, Muslim state, which is a key ally in the U.S.-led war on Al Qaeda
and the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan.
A wave of suicide and
bomb attacks across Pakistan has killed more than 3,000 people since 2007. Blame
has fallen on Taliban and Al Qaeda-linked militants bitterly opposed to the
alliance with the United States.
The United Nations
decided last year to relocate a limited number of its international staff from
Pakistan because of security concerns.
The UN’s World Food
Program office in Islamabad was attacked in October last year, with five aid
workers killed in a suicide bombing.
Then on Feb. 3, a bomb
attack in the NWFP district of Lower Dir killed three U.S. soldiers and five
other people at the opening of a school just rebuilt with Western funding after
an Islamist attack.
Elsewhere in the
northwest today, police found the bodies of two men the Taliban had accused of
spying for the United States. The local tribesmen had been snatched last month
from Mir Ali in North Waziristan tribal region, and their “bullet-riddled bodies
were found dumped under a bridge,” police officer Dildar Khan