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Foreign Aid Groups Warned of Possible Attack in Pakistan

A government agency says the Taliban may be plotting a suicide bombing in Quetta.

June 06, 2004|From Associated Press

QUETTA, Pakistan — The United Nations refugee agency and foreign aid groups were warned Saturday to beef up security against a suspected Taliban suicide bombing plot, three days after suspected Taliban gunmen launched their bloodiest attack against relief workers since the radical Islamic regime was overthrown in Afghanistan in late 2001.

The warning comes amid clashes between the U.S. military and Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan that reportedly have killed 25 militants, and as Pakistan's president threatened military action to root out Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters in tribal border areas.

The Afghan Refugees Organization, a Pakistani government agency responsible for security at refugee camps in Baluchistan, a southwestern province bordering Afghanistan, alerted the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and five other nongovernmental organizations to a suspected threat to their offices in Quetta.

"Only those NGOs will be targeted where U.S.-British nationals are working," the organization said in a letter.

Mullah Hashim Sagzai, a formerly unknown Taliban believed to be living in the Girdi Jungle refugee camp in Baluchistan, was identified as the lead planner, the letter said.

A purported Taliban spokesman, Mullah Latif Hakimi, told Associated Press by telephone that there was no such member of the group.

The letter, obtained by Associated Press in Quetta, provincial capital of Baluchistan, said Sagzai's operatives were seeking access to the agencies' premises to stage a suicide bombing.

"In view of the above, you are requested that security ... may be beefed up to deter anti-social elements from carrying out their agenda," the letter said. "Strict vigilance is also warranted in this regard."

The letter was sent to the Quetta offices of the UNHCR and five groups -- U.S.-based Mercy Corps International, Britain-based Global Partner, Ireland's Concern, the French Tear Fund and the Assn. of Medical Doctors of Asia.

Babar Baluch, a UNHCR official, told Associated Press that the agencies had ordered their employees not to report for work Monday and to await further orders. Officials of the other groups either refused to comment or were not available.

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