PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — Gunmen in northwest Pakistan killed five female teachers and two aid workers on Tuesday in an ambush on a van carrying workers home from their jobs at a community center, officials said.
The attack was another reminder of the risks to women
educators and aid workers from Islamic militants who oppose their work.
It was in the same conservative province where militants shot and
seriously wounded 15-year-old Malala Yousufzai, an outspoken young
activist for girls' education, in October.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the latest shootings.
van was transporting teachers and aid workers from the center in
conservative Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. It is an area where Islamic
militants often target women and girls trying to get an education or
Militants in the province have blown up schools
and killed female educators. They have also kidnapped and killed aid
workers, viewing them as promoting a foreign agenda.
Last month, nine people working on an anti-polio vaccination campaign were shot and killed.
teachers were killed along with two health workers, one man and one
woman. Their driver was wounded. They were on their way home from a
community center in the town of Swabi where they were working at a
primary school for girls and adjoining medical center.
police chief Abdur Rasheed said most of the women killed were between
the ages of 20 and 22. He said four gunmen who used two motorcycles fled
the scene and have not been apprehended.
The gunmen on
motorcycles opened fire with automatic weapons, said Javed Akhtar,
executive director of the non-governmental organization Support With
Working Solutions. The NGO conducts programs in the education and health
sectors and runs the community center in Swabi, he said. The group has
been active in the city since 1992, and started the Ujala Community
Welfare Center in 2010, he added. Ujala means "light" in Urdu.
The center is financed by the Pakistani government's Poverty Alleviation Program and a German organization, said Akhtar.
said the NGO also runs health and education projects in the South
Waziristan tribal area, as well as health projects in the cities of Tank
and Dera Ismail Khan and the regions of Lower Dir and Upper Kurram. All
of those cities and regions are in northwest Pakistan, the area that
has been most affected by the ongoing fight with militants opposed to
the current government.
Aid groups such as Support With Working
Solutions often provide a vital role in many areas of Pakistan where the
government has been unable to provide services such as medical clinics
or schools. But in some areas like the northwest, they have had to work
to overcome community fears that they are promoting a foreign agenda at
odds with local traditions and values.
Akhtar said he has directed
staff at all projects to stop working for the time being until security
measures are reviewed but vowed that they would resume their work soon.
He said that the NGO had not received any threats before the attack.
a case in the same province that gained international attention, a
Taliban gunman shot 15-year-old Yousufzai in the head last October for
criticizing the militants and promoting girls' education.