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ICRC Suspends Operations In Two More Pakistani Cities

The Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said Thursday it has suspended all activities in the Pakistani cities of Peshawar and Karachi in wake of the recent killing of a British national working for the group.

Khalil Rasjed Dale, a 60-year-old ICRC health program manager in Balochistan Province's capital city of Quetta, was kidnapped by unidentified gunmen in January while returning from work. His beheaded body was found abandoned on April 29.

A note blaming the ICRC for not paying the demanded ransom was found alongside Dale's body. Soon after the incident, the ICRC had suspended its operations in Baluchistan province.

"The recent attack against the ICRC compels us to completely reassess the balance between the humanitarian impact of our activities and the risks faced by our staff," Jacques de Maio, ICRC's head of South Asia operations, said in a statement.

Separately, Paul Castella, the head of the ICRC delegation in Pakistan, said that the group was "painfully aware that these measures are having a severe and far-reaching impact on wounded, sick, physically disabled and other vulnerable people."

"We are currently analyzing the situation and the environment with a view to setting out a clear and sustainable way forward. In the coming weeks, the ICRC will announce a decision on its future presence and set-up in Pakistan," Castella added.

Pakistan has been heavily dependent on activities of rights groups and charity organizations operating in the country for years, specially to manage the aftermath of natural disasters like floods and in recent years to take care of those displaced by the ongoing military offensives against Taliban militants in the country's tribal belt bordering Afghanistan.

The ICRC has had a presence in Pakistan since 1947, mainly providing health care, physical rehabilitation and other assistance for victims of violence and natural disasters. Some of the other aid organizations have also been functioning in the country for years.

by RTT Staff Writer

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