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16 Nov 2008 06:00
An American aid worker shot dead in Peshawar this week is believed to be the first victim of a targeted attack on a Westerner in the campaign of violence unleashed by Islamic extremists in Pakistan since summer last year.
Stephen Vance, a contractor to the United States government development agency USAid, was shot dead along with his Pakistani driver just after he left home on Wednesday morning. He was living in Peshawar with his wife and five children.
He was not in an armoured car.
A US diplomat whose armoured vehicle was ambushed by suspected Islamic militants in Peshawar in August was unharmed.
According to reports, seven spent shells were found at the site where Vance was killed, in an upmarket part of the city known as University Town.
“People are really just in shock,” said an aid official who worked alongside him. “It’s very scary. We’ve become used to bombs but this is something different.”
Vance (52) worked for CHF International, an NGO. He is thought to have moved to Peshawar this year. He worked on the $750-million US government aid programme for the tribal area, which runs alongside the Afghanistan border. His project sought to create jobs for people in the tribal belt, especially in Waziristan, where many have joined the Taliban and other extremist groups simply for the money.
Law and order have deteriorated sharply in Peshawar, the provincial capital of the North-West Frontier province, with kidnappings of local people for ransom on the rise, though the violence has spread across Pakistan.
“Unfortunately, the government is not taking any solid steps to improve security. The situation is that the area around Peshawar is not safe,” said Mehmood Shah, a former senior bureaucrat turned analyst.
This week a convoy of trucks carrying US military equipment and food was ambushed and ransacked as it passed through the Khyber area on its way to Afghanistan. A suicide bomb attack at a sports stadium in Peshawar on Tuesday killed at least two people, while another suicide attack on Wednesday, at a military camp at Shabqadar, also in the north-west, killed two soldiers.
The diplomatic community in Islamabad has been shaken by bombings in the capital. Many missions, including the British high commission and the department for international development, have sent families home.—
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