Wednesday, March 10, 2010

World Vision Attacked In Pakistan

Gunmen in Pakistan singled out, shot, aid workers
Reuters, By Michael Georgy

OGHI, Pakistan, March 10 (Reuters) - The gunmen who attacked the office of a U.S.-based, Christian aid agency in Pakistan on Wednesday singled out staff members before killing six of them, survivors said.

About 10 suspected Islamist militants stormed the office of the World Vision agency in Oghi village in Mansehra district, about 80 km (50 miles) north of Islamabad, at about 9 a.m. (0400 GMT).

A driver who was outside the building shouted a warning that people were trying to get in just before the masked gunmen stormed the office.

Labourer Sayid Shehzed was upstairs in the office doing some work. One of the gunmen spotted him and told him to come down or he would be shot, Shehzed said.

"I thought for sure this was the end. I thought I wouldn't live," Shehzed told Reuters at the scene of the attack.

The gunmen rounded everyone up and made them sit on the floor. They then demanded mobile telephones, identification and money, he said.

The gunmen, who were speaking Urdu, then told everyone to put their hands up, Shehzed said.

The driver who had earlier shouted the warning didn't put his hands up all the way so one of the gunmen shot him in the forehead, Shehzed said.

They then killed another man sitting next to the driver as the others began to pray, he said.

Shehzed, who had identified himself as a labourer, was then separated from the group and put in a separate room.

"They kicked me in the stomach then brought the other labourers in. They then went back and started shooting everyone," he said.

All six dead were Pakistani staff at World Vision, the agency said. Police said two of the dead were women.


Another survivor, who was said he was not a World Vision staff member, also said the gunmen had singled out aid workers.

"They told me to move aside and 'let us do what we have to do'," said the second survivor, who declined to be identified.

As they left, the gunmen set off a bomb which largely destroyed the office, knocking down walls and bring down parts of the ceiling.

Wrecked office equipment including a photocopy machine and chunks of concrete and bricks blanketed the floor.

A wooden box containing applications for leave lay among the debris next to a battered set of filing cabinets.

Pools of congealed blood could be seen under over-turned pink office furniture.

Outside the front of the office, located in a rural district near forested Himalayan foothills, a white office utility vehicle was badly damaged with its windscreen smashed.

The area was hard hit by a big earthquake in October 2005 which killed 73,000 people. Aid groups flooded into the region to help about 3 million survivors left homeless.

The area has been generally peaceful although there have been occasional incidents of violence. In 2008, gunmen attacked an office of the Plan International aid agency in Mansehra town, killing four Pakistani staff.

Aid workers in the conservative, rural corner of North West Frontier Province have met some hostility, often in connection with the presence of women members of staff and projects aimed at women.

World Vision said it had not received any threats before the attack. Seven members of staff were wounded, the group said.