8 Aid Workers Feared Kidnapped in Pakistan

Locals unload humanitarian aid provided by the American Refugee Committee in Pakistan. Photo by: Alex Erolin / American Refugee Committee©

Eight Pakistani aid workers of the American Refugee Committee who went missing Monday (July 18) evening in Pakistan are feared kidnapped, according to a Pakistani government official.

The aid workers were reportedly on their way back to Quetta, the capital of the Balochistan province, after delivering relief goods to an Afghan refugee camp in Pishin, about 50 kilometers away. The area is located in Pakistan’s southwest bordering Afghanistan.

This incident is the latest in a series of security challenges involving aid workers. In Africa, Asia and the Middle East especially, workers who do the difficult job of delivering humanitarian aid in conflict and remote areas are often easy prey for armed groups.

In Pakistan’s lawless tribal regions in particular, kidnapping has reportedly become an industry, driven by money rather than political demands, according to a Reuters report. In fact, just this month, a Swiss couple was kidnapped by gunmen in the Loralai district of Balochistan. The couple has not been recovered to date. In 2009, a U.S. official of the U.N. refugee agency was also kidnapped in Quetta but was released two months later.

Ransoms are a large source of revenue for militants linked to al-Qaida and the Taliban, as well as for ethnic Baluch militants fighting for more autonomy in the region, Reuters said.

Authorities in the area, however, still do not have any clues as to who was behind the kidnapping, even as Pishin deputy commissioner Mansoor Kakar claimed that efforts are under way to recover the ARC workers.

ARC has been providing health care training and services in refugee camps near Quetta since 2002, Reuters says.

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    Eliza Villarino

    Eliza Villarino currently manages one of today’s leading publications on humanitarian aid, global health and international development, the weekly GDB. At Devex, she has helped grow a global newsroom, with talented journalists from major development hubs such as Washington, D.C, London and Brussels. She regularly writes about innovations in global development.