UN staffer shot dead in Pakistan

PESHAWAR: Gunmen killed a UN employee and a guard during a failed kidnap attempt at a refugee camp in northwestern Pakistan today, officials said, a blow to humanitarian efforts to help civilians displaced by army offensives against the Taliban.

Local police chief Ghayoor Afridi said the assailants tried to abduct the UN official and opened fire when he resisted. Two Pakistanis working for the UN were also wounded in the attack at the Kacha Garhi camp near Peshawar, he said.

The chief of the UN refugee agency in Pakistan, Guenet Guebre-Christos, identified the dead UN worker as Zill-e-Usman, a 59-year-old Pakistani in charge of the UN’s relief efforts at the camp. She said Usman had worked for the UN for some 30 years and was due to retire soon.

“He was quite an old hand and he was looking forward to his retirement,” Guebre-Christos told The Associated Press. She condemned the attack, calling it a “cowardly assassination.” The other man killed in the shooting was a guard at the camp and did not work for the UN, Guebre-Christos said.

Some 2 million Pakistanis have been driven from their homes in northwest Pakistan due to military offensives against militants in the region — and many ended up in refugee camps.

International organisations have stepped up humanitarian efforts, leaving them vulnerable to attack by militants or criminals.

Islam Khan, a guard at the Kacha Garhi camp, which the United NationsN says is home to 16,000 refugees, said four men drove up to Usman’s office in a blue car and went inside.

“Then I heard gunshots and the attackers came out and fled in their car,” Khan said, adding that one of the assailants was bleeding.

It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the attack, and there was no claim of responsibility.

Guebre-Christos said she wasn’t aware of any direct threats towards UN workers at the camp.

“We don’t know who these people are who attacked or why they did it,” she said.

Mahmood Shah, a former security chief for Pakistan’s northwest tribal regions, said the attack sounded like the work of criminals rather than the Taliban because the militants had largely been driven from that area.

UN employees and foreigners have been the target of kidnappings and bombings several times in recent months.

Last month, there were United Nations employees among the 11 people killed in a suicide attack that devastated the Pearl Continental Hotel in Peshawar.