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Asia

Seven aid workers gunned down in northwestern Pakistan

Seven aid workers have been killed in northwestern Pakistan. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

Local officials said the victims, who were gunned down as they left a children's community center where they worked, were Pakistani citizens. Six of the victims were women, at least five of whom worked as teachers at the community center, while the seventh was a male doctor. The attack occured in Swabi district, about 75 kilometers (45 miles) northwest of the capital, Islamabad.

"They were on their way back home when unknown gunmen on a motorcycle opened fire on their vehicle," the Swabi district police chief told the AFP news agency. "Six women and a man have died. The driver is injured. We are investigating the motives of the attack," Abdul Rahsid Kahn added.

Last month, nine health workers taking part in a national polio vaccination drive were gunned down in a series of attacks in northwestern Pakistan and Karachi. Suspicion fell upon Pakistani Taliban Islamists, but they denied carrying out those attacks. The United Nations children's fund and the World Health Organization reacted by suspending their work on polio campaigns, which the Taliban have repeatedly denounced as being a plot to either sterilize or spy on Muslims.

The head of Support With Working Solution, the charity whose workers were killed in Tuesday's attacks, said that while the motive remained unclear, a link to December's attacks was not out of the question.

"Our charity centre is located close to a government facility offering polio immunization and it is possible that the attackers mistakenly thought our staffers were health workers," Javed Akhtar told the DPA news agency.

pfd/kms (Reuters, AFP, dpa)