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US races to trump militants in getting aid to Pakistan flood victims

US effort to help victims of the Pakistan flood is likely to expand beyond the $10 million already pledged, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday.

By Staff writer / August 4, 2010

Flood-stricken Pakistanis wait outside a relief center to receive food supplies on the outskirts of Peshawar, Pakistan, Wednesday. USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah spoke about America’s image in Pakistan, saying the US with its assistance was demonstrating to Pakistanis that 'we are in this for the long haul.'

Mohammad Sajjad/AP

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Washington

The United States is in a race with militant organizations in Pakistan to respond first and most effectively to the millions of Pakistani people who are the victims of the worst monsoon flooding in nearly a century.

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As part of the US campaign, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Wednesday spoke not only of the expanding US response to the floods, but of the terrorist actions some groups are carrying out even in the disaster zone.

Calling attention to a suicide bombing Wednesday morning in Peshawar, near the center of the worst flooding in Pakistan’s northwest, Secretary Clinton said, “Violence like this is abhorrent at any time, but especially at this time of crisis for the Pakistani people.”

The bombing killed three people, including a senior police official. Elsewhere in the flood-stricken northwest, reports were emerging of extremist groups, including the Pakistani Taliban and a militant religious organization linked to the 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai, India, coming to flood victims’ aid.

In a statement made from the reception hall outside her State Department office, Clinton emphasized that the aid the US is providing – from search and rescue equipment and disaster assessment teams to food, water purifiers, and prefabricated bridges – is being closely coordinated with the Pakistani government. The US on Monday pledged $10 million for flood relief, but Clinton suggested Wednesday the figure would climb as more disaster aid is administered.

She also hinted at some degree of independence from the perspective of a government that is not always held in high regard by its own people. The government of President Asif Ali Zardari has come in for criticism over a slow and uncoordinated response to the flooding. Mr. Zardari has been lambasted for leaving the country for visits in European capitals during the worst natural disaster of his fragile presidency.

In describing the crisis, Clinton said an estimated 1,500 people had lost their lives – using a statistic that Pakistani nongovernmental relief organizations are citing, but that surpasses the government toll of 900.

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