“Letters from extremists distributed March 13 and 14 also warned schools to make sure girls are covered from head to toe and to avoid coeducation.”
Sharia Alert. “Extremists target aid groups in Pakistan,” by Kathy Gannon for the Associated Press:
MANSEHRA, Pakistan – Long-haired gunmen burst into the white stone building and killed four charity workers helping earthquake victims, then wrecked the office with grenades and set it on fire. Police came, but did not intervene.
In a tactic reminiscent of neighboring Afghanistan, Islamic militants are attacking aid groups in the Pakistan’s volatile northwest, and local authorities appear incapable “” or unwilling “” to stop them.
Reminiscent? Not exactly. More like a direct ideological link.
The threat has forced several foreign agencies to scale back assistance to survivors of the October 2005 earthquake that killed at least 78,000 people and left 3 million homeless “” risking the region’s recovery from the worst natural disaster in the country’s history.
The Feb. 25 attack on employees of Plan International, a British-based charity that focuses on helping children, was the worst in a series of threats and assaults on aid workers in the northern mountains where Taliban-style militants have expanded their reach in the past year.
Nearly a month later, menacing letters are still being sent to aid organizations. Although all four victims in Mansehra were Pakistani men, Islamic extremists despise the aid groups because they employ women and work for women’s rights.
Local officials in Mansehra, who spoke on condition they not be identified for fear of retaliation, said letters from extremists distributed March 13 and 14 also warned schools to make sure girls are covered from head to toe and to avoid coeducation.
The militants also may be trying to discredit Pakistan’s central government, and to enforce a radical religious agenda in a conservative region where jihadist-linked groups were themselves a source of aid after the quake.
Police accuse a local militant, Mohiuddin Shakir, who goes by the alias Mujahid, of masterminding the attack last month on the aid office in Mansehra. He has not been arrested.
Shakir, a former member of an al-Qaida-linked group, has criminal charges against him in Pakistan dating back to 2002, including for murder, according to police records obtained by The Associated Press.
Shakir now leads a jihadist group called Lashkar-e-Ababeel, named after small birds that the Quran says threw stones to defeat an army of 60,000 warriors who sought to destroy Mecca in the 7th century.
Last summer, Shakir wrote a letter to newspapers warning international aid groups about hiring women and warning women to wear an all-encompassing veil.
Yet Abdul Ershad, an officer investigating the attack, said that as recently as late 2007, Shakir had a working arrangement with police in his hometown of Phulra not far from Mansehra. To advance his agenda, he would tell police about residents involved in “un-Islamic” activities “” like men selling pornographic videos and socializing with women “” and police would arrest them, Ershad said.