3 Humanitarian Workers Killed in Pakistan, Aid Official Says

Aid volunteers distribute rations to flood victims in Punjab, Pakistan. Three foreign aid workers were kidnapped then killed by the Taliban in the flood-hit district of Swat, an aid official said. Photo by: Amjad Jamal / WFP

Three aid workers were kidnapped and killed by the Pakistani Taliban last week in the Swat valley, a district in the flood-ravaged country’s Khyber-Paktunkhwa province, an aid agency official said.

The humanitarian workers were all male - one Canadian and two Swedish citizens - said Rizwan Paul, president of advocacy organization Life for All, in an e-mail to Devex.

Paul wrote that “the local authorities and the [m]ilitary sources are denying the news.” But an official at Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations and a formal statement from the District Coordination Office in Swat have confirmed the deaths, Paul said.

“The [m]ilitary agencies had held the information from leaking out to avoid creating panic. But our source had confirmed the incident as our workers are also serving in Swat on [h]umanitarian grounds,” Paul wrote in his e-mail.

The ISPR has “officially informed” humanitarian organizations working in the Swat district of the incident, Paul wrote, adding that “we have also received the official notice to take extra precautions.”

The incident was first reported Aug. 27 by Compass Direct News. Its website stated that the bodies of the foreign aid workers were recovered by the Pakistan Army Aug. 25.

“The foreign aid workers have been working in Mingora and the surrounding areas,” Swat District Coordination Officer Atif-ur-Rehman told Compass. “On Aug. 23 they were returning to their base at around 5:35 p.m. when a group of Taliban attacked their vehicle. They injured around five-six people and kidnapped three foreign humanitarian workers.”

The three foreign workers were helping to provide aid to flood victims in the district, according to Compass.

Pakistani Government Unaware of Threat

Pakistani Information Minister Qamal Zaman Kaira earlier said the Islamic nation’s government does not have knowledge of any threat against foreign aid workers. The minister told CNN Aug. 29 that the Pakistani government has not received any information regarding such threats and will provide security to aid workers if needed.

A senior U.S. official earlier warned of possible attacks by Taliban rebels against aid workers in Pakistan.

“According to information available to the US government, Tehrik-e Taliban plans to conduct attacks against foreigners participating in the ongoing flood relief operations in Pakistan,” the official told BBC on condition of anonymity.

“It is a real threat,” U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said Aug. 26 at a press briefing in Washington, D.C. “We have information of the potential targeting of foreign relief workers in Pakistan as well as government ministries.”

U.S. aid chief Rajiv Shah said Aug. 27 that he himself encountered a security threat while visiting a Pakistani relief camp in Sukkur last Aug. 25, Agence France-Presse reports.

“Within a few minutes of being there, our Diplomatic Security detail informed me that there were some suspicious individuals in the area and we needed to leave. So we tried to make as graceful and appropriate an exit as possible,” Shah told reporters after returning to Washington.

He added that it was “deeply saddening that others would choose to use these environments to propagate themselves.”

Rehman said the Taliban has also been trying to provide relief to flood victims.

“The Taliban are also trying to support the flood victims, and many other banned organizations have set up camps in southern Punjab to support the victims,” Rehman told the Compass. “They intend to sympathize with the affected and gain their support.”

The Taliban on Aug. 29 pledged 2 million rupees (USD23,351) for Pakistani flood victims, All Headline News reports. The rebel group was forced to contribute to the relief efforts since the assistance mobilized by the international community was “not being used in a judicious manner,” said Omar Khalid, head of the Tehrik-e-Taliban in the Mohmand tribal region.

About the author

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    Ma. Rizza Leonzon

    As a former staff writer, Rizza focused mainly on business coverage, including key donors such as the Asian Development Bank and AusAID.