Sunday 23 November 2014

Women teachers killed in gun ambush

Published 01/01/2013 | 12:20

A father of an aid worker, who was killed by gunmen, mourns the death of his daughter at a hospital in Swabi, Pakistan (AP)
Pakistani men carry the body of a teacher, who was killed by gunmen, from a hospital for burial in Swabi, Pakistan (AP)

Gunmen have killed five female teachers and two aid workers in an ambush on a van carrying workers home from their jobs at a community centre in north-west Pakistan, officials said.

The attack was another reminder of the risks to women educators and aid workers from Islamic militants who oppose their work. It happened 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 shooting. In another attack by suspected militants in the southern city of Karachi, four people were killed and dozens injured when a bomb went off just as a large political rally was dispersing.

The teachers and aid workers were killed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, an area where Islamic militants often target women and girls trying to get an education, or female teachers.

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 dead. Four of those shootings were in the north-west as well.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, formerly called the Northwest Frontier province, borders the tribal areas of Pakistan along the frontier with Afghanistan to the west.

Militant groups such as the Taliban have used the tribal areas as a stronghold from which to wage war both in Afghanistan and against the Pakistani government. Often that violence has spilled over into the mostly Pashtun province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

In 2007, the Taliban, led by Maulana Fazlullah, took over the scenic Swat Valley, marking the height of their strength there. The Pakistani military later pushed the militant group from the valley but the Taliban has repeatedly tried to reassert itself.

The 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 centre in the town of Swabi where they were working at a primary school for girls and adjoining medical centre.

Press Association

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