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6 World Vision aid workers killed by armed Pakistani gunmen

By Stephanie Dearing     Mar 10, 2010 in World
World Vision's office in the Mansehra region of Pakistan was raided by approximately 10 armed gunmen, who killed six Pakistani aid workers.
Eight other employees were injured in the attack, which World Vision believes was prompted because the targeted office was running programs to assist women. Two of the staff killed were women. World Vision issued a statement saying "World Vision is in mourning today after the brutal and senseless deaths of six members our staff in the Mansehra District of Pakistan after an unprovoked attack by gunmen." The agency said it was trying "... to confirm reports that gunmen first set off bombs or grenades, then opened fire on the office, located 65 kilometers north of the capital, Islamabad." As a result of the attack, which World Vision says occurred without warning, all the agency's operations in Pakistan have been suspended for the time being. World Vision has worked in Pakistan since 1992.
All the staff killed were of Pakistan origin. Reports state the gunmen stormed the office, shooting staff, then left, planting a pressure cooker bomb as they left. World Vision did not say how many offices it had operating in Pakistan, nor how many employees it has working in the country. The attacked office was sited in the village of Oghi.
It is believed the attack was made by Muslims, who often target Christian organizations in Pakistan, but an attack to retaliate against an increase in drone attacks on the Taliban in the northwest region has not been ruled out.
World Vision offers limited programs in Pakistan's northwest, the Maternal and Child Health Project and the Khaghan Integrated Program. The Khaghan Program helped Pakistanis rebuild after the earthquake of 2005.
An unknown number of humanitarian aid groups are working in northwest Pakistan to help villagers rebuild after the 2005 earthquake or to help those fleeing the conflict in the northwest between Pakistani government forces and extremists. Hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis have become displaced by fighting between the army and the Taliban. The Mansehra region is said to not be the focus of fighting between the Pakistani army and the Taliban.
Last year a United Nations official and a guard were killed in a botched attempted kidnapping at a refugee camp in northwest Pakistan. Head of the United Nations Refugee Program (UNHCR), Antonio Guterres said at the time "It is unacceptable that humanitarian workers doing such vital and selfless work are attacked in this way. There is no justification for attacks on humanitarian workers dedicated to the protection and care of the most vulnerable people."
Pakistan has been aggressively attacking militant strongholds in the northwest. An airstrike by the Pakistan army resulted in the deaths of at least 30 insurgents. On Wednesday a U.S. drone strike killed at least 12 people in northwest Pakistan. RTT News said the Pakistan offensive consists of "... two separate anti-militant offensives progressing in the Taliban strong holds of South Waziristan and the Swat Valley region. The operations were initiated after the Obama administration urged Islamabad to take on Taliban militants it considers responsible for the escalating violence in Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan."
The increasing alignment between Pakistan and American interests against Muslim militants has only angered Pakistan's Taliban.
World Vision is one of the world's largest Christian humanitarian aid organizations.
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