PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) – Gunmen opened fire and hurled grenades Monday at the office of a British-run aid group in northwest Pakistan, killing at least four local staff and wounding 10 others, officials said.
The attackers stormed the office of Plan International, a non-governmental organisation, in the northwestern town of Mansehra and fled after setting the premises ablaze, they said.
“We have collected four bodies. There are 10 injured, it’s an emergency situation — we are trying to confirm more details,” Mohammad Ashfaq, local coordinator for Plan International, told AFP by telephone from Mansehra.
Local hospital doctor Rizwan Shah confirmed that two dead bodies had been brought in, while two people died in hospital.
“Of the first two people, there was a woman who had probably died due to an explosion, but her body had been badly charred, while the man who died had bullet wounds,” Shah said.
Police said the gunmen came in two cars and fled after the attack on the offices of the organisation, which he said had been active in the area for the past 12 years in the fields of education, health and development.
“We have sent search parties after the attackers and called in the fire brigade,” local police official Zulfiqar Jadoon told AFP.
Ashfaq said the organisation had not received any threats.
Plan International is based in Woking in southern England. It was founded more than 70 years ago and is one of the oldest and largest international development agencies in the world, according to its website.
In a statement the organisation said it had closed its operation in Pakistan after the attack in which the office building had burned to the ground.
“Our primary concern is for our staff and the families of those hurt in the attack,” Plan International chief executive Tom Miller said.
“We have immediately closed our operations across Pakistan and dispatched a security team to the area. Counselling will be provided for those affected by the tragedy,” he said.
“The attack comes as a shock as Plan has deep roots in the Mansehra area and has worked with the community for more than a decade. Most staff are locals,” the statement said.
It said the motive for the attack was unknown.
Plan International works with local communities in Pakistan to provide education and other opportunities to children, it said. It played a “leading role” in the relief effort following a 2005 earthquake in impoverished North West Frontier Province and Pakistani Kashmir.
Pro-Taliban militants have bombed the offices of NGOs in the past in Pakistan, alleging that foreign-funded groups are trying to undermine their version of strict Islamic law which bars women from working.
Dozens of local and foreign aid organisations have been working in the area since the massive October 2005 earthquake killed more than 73,000 people.