7 Pakistani aid workers killed

Jan. 2, 2013 at 6:06 PM
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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Jan. 2 (UPI) -- Funerals were held Wednesday in Pakistan for five teachers and two health workers gunned down in Swabi, about 80 miles northwest of Islamabad.

Six of the victims killed Tuesday in an attack on their van were women, the Dawn newspaper reported. One of the health technicians was a man.

The van was surrounded by gunmen on motorcycles, The Christian Science Monitor reported.

A 4-year-old boy, son of one of the women, was taken out of the van by the attackers and survived.

A few weeks ago, nine workers in a polio-vaccination program were killed in coordinated attacks around the country. The deaths have raised questions about the future of health and education programs in Pakistan.

"In the past, local volunteers, be they teachers, medical workers or social mobilizers, considered themselves safe and worked hand in hand with foreign aid workers and paramilitary personnel in even the most dire of circumstances," Hassan Belal Zaidi, a development and communication specialist in Islamabad, told the Monitor. "But now, it would not be unreasonable for them to think twice and even refuse to travel to remote parts of the country if they know there is a chance they may get shot."

Khadim Hussain, head of a school network in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, said the Taliban believes aid groups are involved in anti-Muslim work and that their work violates Muslim principles. Many radical Muslims also oppose education for women and do not believe women should be employed.

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