By Hyo-Jin Paik
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan– A relief worker who works for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has been shot dead in northwestern Pakistan on Thursday in a failed kidnapping attempt. The victim, Zil-e-Usman, was a 59-year-old Pakistani and a 30-year veteran of the UN. This was the third killing of UNHCR employee in Pakistan in the past six months.
The slain senior UN official was attacked as he left a field office in the Kacha Gari Refugee Camp and was shot several times.
UNHCR Chief Antonio Guterres said targeting aid workers must be stopped, adding, “There is no justification for attacks on humanitarian workers dedicated to the protection and care of the most vulnerable people.”
The attack took place at a refugee camp in Pakistan’s Frontier Province where the government forces have launched a military offensive against the Taliban militants. About 2 million Pakistanis have been driven from their homes in this region and have been placed in refugee camps. Consequently, many international organizations have dispatched aid workers to this area of Pakistan although there was a risk that the aid workers could be targeted by the militants.
A Pakistani security official told reporters that he suspected the Taliban to be behind this attack. The shooting came only days after senior Pakistani officials warned that the Taliban militants who had fought in the northern Swat Valley over the past few months were expected to retaliate against the Pakistani government and aid workers. The Taliban fighters have targeted foreign diplomats and humanitarian workers in the past.
UN had lost its workers just last month in the devastating suicide bombing attack in a hotel in Peshawar. Guterres said, “It is unacceptable that humanitarian workers doing such vital and selfless work are attacked in this way.”
For more information, please see:
Al Jazeera – UN workers killed in Pakistan attack – 16 July 2009
CBS – UN Worker Killed in Pakistan Refugee Camp – 16 July 2009
CNN – U.N. worker killed in Pakistan kidnap bid – 16 July 2009