Sunday, August 29, 2010

More millions of displaced people in Sindh ~ as military confirms Taliban abduct and kill 3 foreign aid workers

Islamabad (AsiaNews) – The Indus broke flood defences again this morning, forcing the evacuation of 300,000 people in the city of Thatta. At least, a million people have been forced from their homes in the last 48 hours, raising the number of displaced people in the entire country to 21.8 million. In the meantime, AsiaNews received confirmation from military sources that three foreign volunteers operating with an NGO in the Swat Valley were killed after a Taliban attack.

Monsoon rains have hit Pakistan in the past month or so with unprecedented violence, never seen in the past 80 years. The forecast is for more rain in the next few weeks.

In the north, floodwaters are receding, revealing all the horror of the disaster. Roads have been wiped out, bridges have collapsed and houses have been swept away. Fields have been destroyed, as millions of people need food, water and shelter.

"The floods seem determined to outrun our efforts. About one month from the onset of the floods, we don't know when we will see their end, as the disaster is still unfolding,” UN spokesman Maurizio Giuliano said.

The waters that flow into the Arabian Sea have brought Sindh province to its knees. At least 19 of its 23 districts are under water and will remain so for at least two more weeks.

The Pakistani army and navy have been involved night and day in moving people to dry ground, handing out aid and rebuilding emergency bridges.

In the meantime, military sources told AsiaNews that the killing of three foreign volunteers in the Swat Valley (northwestern Pakistan near the border with Afghanistan) was the work of the Taliban. Due to security reasons and on request of the victims’ international humanitarian organisation, the names of both the organisation and its aid workers have been kept confidential.

“Foreign aid workers were working in Mingora and surrounding areas. On 23 August, they were returning to their base when a group of Taliban attacked their van, injuring five or six people, and abducting three foreigners,” said Atif-ur-Rehman, district co-ordination officer.

The bodies of the three volunteers were recovered only in the morning of 25 August.

Other sources said that two were killed in the evening of 24 August; the other, at 6 am, the next day.

The Pakistani military tried to hold back news about the killing to avoid panic among other humanitarian organisations.

The Taliban have ruled some areas in the Swat Valley since 2008. In 2009, the Pakistani military launched an offensive to throw them back into Afghanistan.

In the past few days, the Taliban have threatened humanitarian organisations operating in Pakistan. For this reason, the military is in close contact with foreign NGOs and has tightened security around them.

Special rangers have been deployed in the Swat and other areas where NGOs could be targeted by the radical Islamists.

Attacks against NGO do not appear to be motivated by religion or jihad. The Taliban simply want some of the aid flowing in for the population.[cough!]

“The Taliban are also trying to support the flood victims, many other banned organisations have setup camps in Southern Punjab to support the victims. They intend to show sympathy towards the affected and gain their support, “Atif-ur-Rehman told AsiaNews.

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