Masked gunmen stormed the offices of a Christian charity in northwest Pakistan on Wednesday, killing six Pakistani staffers and injuring several more.
"Those who kill humanitarian workers must be reminded that they are not only killing their own country's residents, but also people seeking to improve the lives of victims of poverty and injustice," said a World Vision statement.
According to Pakistani television, up to 15 militants entered the building with rifles and hand grenades. Waqar Ahmed, a senior police officer, told the AFP that police failed to apprehend the assailants, who managed to flee into the mountain following the assault. Two men and four women employees, all Pakistani Muslims, were killed in the attack, says Mr. Owen. One of several injured was a women who arrived for her first day of work.
The area, which borders the troubled Swat Valley, has generally escaped the worst of the violence that has engulfed Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province in recent years, though an attack on the British aid organization Plan International in February 2008 killed four Pakistanis and led several charities to reduce efforts or to leave the area.
Hub for relief efforts related to 2005 earthquake
The district of Manshera is a regional hub for relief activities related to the October 2005 earthquake of magnitude 7.6, which killed some 73,000 people.
Mazhar Bashir, a local reporter from Manshera, says that "most people here are shocked and very saddened by what has happened. World Vision was one of the few charities still operating here and they were solving people's problems by providing relief in a very underdeveloped area, doing some essential work for people who lost their relatives and properties after the earthquake."
He says that among the residents, most tend to favor the presence of nongovernmental organizations, but some religious people object to them "because they employ women, and they say that is not allowed in Islam."
Shane Brady, a recently retired program support officer with the Irish nongovernmental organization Concern Worldwide, which closed its offices in Manshera after the 2008 attack on Plan International, says that today’s attack would further restrict the movement of NGO staff in the region.
“In the current climate, people will think long and hard before they open an office in an area like that,” he says.
Mr. Brady says World Vision’s links with the US government (it gets some development money from USAID) and its Christian mission may have made the charity a particularly appealing target for militants.
Islamist militants see foreign aid groups as a challenge to their authority, and often accuse Christian aid groups of trying to convert Muslims.
World Vision is one of the world’s largest Christian charities, with a multibillion dollar budget and operations in 100 countries. It helps families living in 87 villages hit by the 2005 earthquake by offering literacy and health programs for women and children. The charity’s website describes its work as being “motivated by Jesus Christ,” though it says it does not proselytize.