American aid worker killed in Pakistan

Militants' increasingly brazen attacks highlight Pakistan's inability to prevent violence.

In Pakistan, an American aid worker was killed Wednesday in the latest round of brazen attacks highlighting both the strength of militants and the Pakistani military's lack of response.

According to the Associated Press, Stephen Vance was heading to work in Peshawar in northwest Pakistan when he was shot and killed, along with his driver. No one has yet claimed responsibility, though "similar attacks against Pakistani security forces and foreigners have been blamed on al-Qaida- and Taliban-linked fighters, who are increasingly active in the region, which borders Afghanistan."

It (the attack) was obviously well-targeted," said [a] foreign official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to media.
Pockets of the northwest have become safe havens for al-Qaida and Taliban operatives involved in attacks on U.S. and NATO forces across the border in Afghanistan as well as rising violence within Pakistan.

Mr. Vance was working to develop the troubled tribal region, the International Herald Tribune reports.

Vance was the director of a "livelihoods" project run by the Cooperative Housing Foundation, which was funded by USAID, they said. Several dozen Americans working on the USAID effort to counter the Taliban by creating jobs and building infrastructure in the tribal areas are based in Peshawar. The city is on the frontline of the tribal area, and serves as something of a rear base for the increasingly powerful Taliban.

The BBC reports that the area used to be safer for foreigners.

[O]ur correspondent says attacks of this kind on foreigners in Pakistan are rare. Across the border in Afghanistan aid workers and other foreigners have increasingly been targeted in recent months.
Gunmen attacked the car of a US diplomat in Peshawar in August, but she survived unhurt....
A number of missile strikes inside Pakistan's tribal areas by US troops based in neighbouring Afghanistan have fuelled anti-American sentiment.

The incident was the latest in a spate of attacks on foreigners that began on Monday, when masked militants seized at least 12 trucks carrying two US military Humvees and a US military jeep, as well as supplies, reports The News, a leading English-language daily in Pakistan.

They had intercepted the trailers at four points... in the Khyber Pass and hijacked them along with the drivers, who were later freed. The militants emptied the containers, mostly carrying wheat, and distributed the goods among the people and kept some for their own use.
One of the trailers was loaded with two Humvees and jeeps, which were captured by the militants and driven around later on the Jamrud Road. The militants even put a white-cloth banner inscribed with the name of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) headed by Baitullah Mehsud on one of the Humvees.

In a related incident on Tuesday, militants also destroyed a US military jeep, according to the Daily Times, a leading Pakistani English-language newspaper.

Suspected Taliban set fire to a truck carrying a US military jeep to Karachi near the Machni checkpost in Khyber Agency on Tuesday.
The Afghan driver of the truck is missing. In the ensuing clashes, three people were killed in the Kas Ghundi locality of Machni.

The Pakistani military moved to recover the vehicles, pounding militant hideouts with artillery and helicopter fire. But those attacks appear to have killed more civilians than militants, Dawn adds.

Three militants and five other people were killed and seven others injured when security forces launched an operation in the outskirts of Peshawar and adjoining Khyber and Mohmand tribal regions on Tuesday to recover two Humvee vehicles and military goods looted by militants on Monday.

One of the Humvees and the jeep were recovered, but the fate of the other Humvee is unknown, The News adds. Civilian resentment, meanwhile, has grown.

Enraged residents blocked the busy Pak-Afghan highway on Tuesday to protest the death of a student during an assault by military gunship helicopters on the militants loyal to Baitullah Mehsud as choppers continued to pound suspected hideouts of the militants in the Khyber Agency for the second consecutive day on Tuesday.

The incident occurred near the border with Afghanistan on a major supply route, reports The Christian Science Monitor, "underscoring for NATO forces the vulnerability of their only practical supply route into landlocked Afghanistan."

The US military uses the route to ship goods and material from Karachi, Pakistan's major port city, into Afghanistan, reports the Associated Press, adding that:

Attacks on convoys carrying food, fuel and other supplies are common on the road. But Monday's raid was especially large and well-organized....
The assault highlighted the vulnerability of a vital supply route for the 65,000 U.S. and NATO forces battling a resurgent Taliban in landlocked Afghanistan.

Dawn issued a scathing editorial condemning not only the action by the militants but also what it characterized as the Pakistani military's inept response.

Monday's hijacking by the Taliban of vehicles carrying Nato supplies is disturbing both for its audacity and possible implications. For one thing, the ambush took place not in some remote corner of the tribal belt but on the Peshawar-Torkham highway in an area where there is no shortage of security checkpoints. Equally if not more worrying are reports that paramilitary personnel at the nearby Jamrud Fort just watched the incident as it unfolded instead of taking on the militants. And when helicopter gunships finally launched an attack well after the event, more civilians than militants were hurt or killed, including a 12-year-old schoolboy. The militants then hoisted Taliban flags and banners on the military vehicles they had captured and conducted a victory parade on wheels in the Jamrud area of Khyber Agency. They even posed for photographs, showing off their booty.

Monday's incident was only the latest outbreak in string of attacks that have escalated since September, when the Pakistani military launched a military operation against the Taliban enclave of Bajaur, according to the New York Times.

The army sent in 2,400 troops in early September to take on a Taliban force that has drawn militants from across the tribal region, as well as a flow of fighters from Afghanistan....
After three months of sometimes fierce fighting, the Pakistani Army controls a small slice of Bajaur. But what was initially portrayed as a paramilitary action to restore order in the area has become the most sustained military campaign by the Pakistani Army against the Taliban and its backers in Al Qaeda since Pakistan allied itself with the United States in 2001.
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
QR Code to American aid worker killed in Pakistan
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today