Five US charity aid workers killed in Pakistan attack
PESHAWAR: Militants armed with guns and grenades stormed the offices of a US-based Christian charity in Pakistan today, killing five aid workers in an attack blamed on Islamist rebels.
The gunmen seized the World Vision building near the town of Oghi in the Mansehra district of North West Frontier Province, where Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants have waged a deadly campaign of attacks.
Police and World Vision’s regional spokesman said five Pakistani staff, including two women, were killed and seven other employees wounded when up to 15 gunmen arrived in pick-up vehicles and began firing on the aid workers.
“They gathered all of us in one room. The gunmen, some of whom had their faces covered, also snatched our mobile phones,” said World Vision administration officer Mohammad Sajid, who was in the office at the time.
“They dragged people one by one and shifted to an adjacent room and shot and killed them.” Rienk van Velzen, World Vision’s regional communications director, told AFP by telephone from the Netherlands that all staff in the office were Pakistani.
“The sad news is that five local colleagues were killed — three male and two female. We have seven colleagues injured,” he said.
The organisation 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 has soared. In February 2008, four aid workers with British-based group Plan International were killed in a similar gun and grenade attack in Mansehra town.
Police officials said the militants today opened fire and detonated hand grenades at the site near Oghi, about 80 km north of Islamabad, killing the five before disappearing 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 told AFP.
“We chased them, there was an exchange of fire, but the gunmen escaped into the mountains.” 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.