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Colleague lauds injured US academic’s 'immeasurable' contribution

Updated April 17, 2015

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Debra Lobo was going home when four suspected terrorists on two motorcycles attacked her on Shaheed-i-Millat Road. — DawnNews screengrab
Debra Lobo was going home when four suspected terrorists on two motorcycles attacked her on Shaheed-i-Millat Road. — DawnNews screengrab

KARACHI: The US academic recovering in a hospital after being shot by suspected militants has made an “immeasurable" contribution to the medical college where she works, her colleague said on Friday.

Debra Lobo, 55, is conscious and in a stable condition in hospital in Karachi after being shot once in the cheek and once in the arm on Thursday.

Leaflets dropped at the scene of the attack said Lobo was targeted because of her nationality and vowed more attacks on Americans.

Baqar Nawab, the administrator of Jinnah Medical and Dental College, where Lobo is assistant professor of community health, hailed what she has done since joining in 1996.

“She has a huge contribution towards the growth of this college,” Nawab told AFP. “We can never find her replacement and her contribution is immeasurable.”

Nawab said Lobo, who is married to a Pakistani Christian, was hugely popular with students.

“We got a lot of calls from former students of the college who are now serving as doctors in America. They were all very much concerned about her,” the administrator said.

Leaflets left at the scene of the shooting hinted at the involvement of militants linked to the Islamic State group, though they also claimed the attack as revenge for the death of suspected Al-Qaeda members in a police raid earlier in the week.

Nawab said Lobo had never been threatened and had completely integrated into the Pakistani way of life, adopting local dress and speaking Urdu fluently.

“She wears shalwar kameez, and she carries herself in the perfect way the local values call for,” he said. “She is more mistaken for a Pashtun or Central Asian lady rather than an American woman.”

Karachi, a city of 20 million people, is wracked by violence and targeted shootings are a near-daily occurrence, either for robbery or for religious, political or ethnic reasons. But attacks on foreigners are rare.

Police said their investigation was focusing on groups whose members have been killed or arrested in a recent crackdown on militants in the city.

There have been concerns about the IS group tapping support in Pakistan, a country awash with dozens of militant groups. Some disaffected Pakistani Taliban cadres have also said they have switched allegiance to IS, but the true extent of links to the group's Middle East operations remains unclear.

Nawaz condemns gun-attack on Vice-Principal

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif strongly condemned yesterday's gun-attack on Vice-Principal of the Jinnah Medical and Dental College Debra Lobo, said a statement issued by the PM House.

Read: American vice-principal of medical college shot at, wounded

According to the statement, the premier sought a report on the incident and directed the authorities to apprehend the culprits at the earliest. He also asked for provision of best medical treatment to her, and prayed for her speedy recovery, the statement said.

Lobo was going home in the Defence Housing Authority in her car at 3pm when four suspected terrorists on two motorcycles attacked her on Shaheed-i-Millat Road.

Karachi-East SSP Pir Mohammed Shah said the 55-year-old woman had been attacked by militants for being an American citizen. She hails from California.

Shah said that a leaflet found near the crime scene said ‘we will burn America’ and that the attack was to avenge the recent killing of five militants in an ‘encounter’ in Keamari area.

He said the leaflet did not carry a logo of any militant organisation but claimed that they were ‘lions of Islamic State’ and ‘falcons of the caliph’.

The Rangers had killed the five militants linked with the outlawed Al Qaeda and the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan in Keamari on April 8 in an alleged encounter.

Consulate in close touch with Pakistan authorities: US spokesperson

US department's spokesperson Marie Harf in a press briefing yesterday said that the US government was aware of a US citizen being injured in a gun-attack in Pakistan.

She said that the US Consulate General in Pakistan is "in close contact with Pakistani authorities and is working to obtain more information" regarding the incident.

She further said that Pakistani authorities "may have more information" regarding the attack as they were handling the investigation locally.