SWABI, Jan 1: Militants marked the New Year with an outrageous attack on charity workers here on Tuesday. They ambushed a van taking the workers home and killed six women and their male companion. The driver of the van was injured and a four-year-old son of one of the women escaped unhurt.
Five of the women worked as teachers, the sixth as health worker and the male victim as health technician. The terror attack is considered to be a continuation of recent targeted killings of workers and volunteers, particularly polio vaccinators, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Karachi.
The seven killed on Tuesday were associated with the Support With Working Solution, an NGO which runs Ojala Community Centre which houses a primary school and a health centre in Sher Afzal Banda area.
“We were intercepted by two men carrying pistols who had parked their motorcycle at Anbar Interchange on Islamabad-Peshawar Motorway. As soon as I stopped my van, they started firing,” driver Abdul Majid told reporters at Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar.
The slain workers were identified as Gul Naz, Asmat Begum, Rahila Gul, Zahida Begum, Shohrat Begum, Naila Naz, aged between 20 and 35, and Amjid Ali, 52.
Senior social organiser of the NGO, Shahid Khan, said they were imparting education to children and providing health service to the poor people of Sher Afzal Banda and adjoining areas. Teacher Kifayatullah said 150 children were in the school.
When asked if they would continue their activities, Mr Khan said it would be decided by the management of the NGO. “Right now senior officials of the NGO are discussing the matter,” he said.
The surviving child, Ahsan, was in a state of shock and could hardly speak. When pressed to say something about the incident, he said in a frightened tone: “There was firing, heavy firing.” Then he started crying and tears rolled down his cheeks.
Deputy Commissioner of Swabi Syed Muhammad Shah said it was an act of terrorism as only terrorists could take lives in such a brutal manner.
District Police Officer Abdul Rashid said it was the first incident of targeting NGO workers in his district. He said there were a number of NGOs working in the district and providing various kinds of facilities to people.
He said they had alerted police throughout the district but no-one had been arrested so far.
AFP adds: There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Police said they were investigating whether there was a link to militancy but the head of the NGO said the organisation had not been threatened despite working on polio immunisations.
Javed Akhtar, executive director of the NGO, said the organisation provided vaccines, also during last month’s campaign, but said he did not know if its polio work was a motive for the attack.