Four women social workers were massacred on Monday by militants who ambushed their car in Pakistan’s restive mountainous tribal area of north Waziristan, bordering Afghanistan, as activists raised concerns over escalation in targeted killings.
A counter operation has been launched in the Mirali town of North Waziristan district to trace the gunmen, the police said in a statement.
According to police, the women were killed by terrorists in Ippi village, a few kilometres east of the town of Mirali and the driver of their car was wounded.
Another activist, identified as Miriam Bibi, survived after she ran into a house to escape the attack.
The assailants fled the spot after carrying out the deadly attack and no one has claimed responsibility for it so far.
The murder of development workers has led to an outcry on social media with rights activists condemning the incident and accusing prime minister Imran Khan of allowing the Taliban to reorganise in an area that has history of violence and target killings.
“Strongly condemn the targeted attack on women employees in North Waziristan. #PuppetPM #TalibanKhan has allowed Taliban to regroup & terrorise locals in Pakhtunkhwa. False cases are registered against Pashtuns demanding an end to Taliban Project,” Bushra Gohar, a politician and activist.
Sanna Ejaz, a journalist and human rights activist from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, also questioned why terrorism starts with the targeting of women and children, and held the government responsible.
North Waziristan was once the home of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), or Pakistan’s Taliban, a member of which shot activist and Nobel peace laureate Malala Yousafzai. The area was the hub of terrorism-related activities, including holding hostages, training militants and deploying suicide bombers to attack people from both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Pakistan launched a major military operation in the region to eliminate terrorist organisations in 2014 and violence dropped significantly till 2017. However, there have been intermittent incidents of attacks and violence has been on an uptick since last year, prompting concerns among activists.
An increase in violence is also noted after thousands of people, displaced due to Pakistan military’s counter operation that led to widespread destruction in the area, returned home.
The People’s Workers Party, also called Awami Workers Party, said it is a matter of grave concern that extremist groups seem to be remobilising in north Waziristan.
“AWP condemns the cold-blooded murder of 4 women social workers in North Waziristan & demands the perpetrators be brought to justice. It is a matter of grave concern that extremist groups seem to be remobilising in Waziristan. The state must provide women workers with protection,” it said in a statement.
The attack on women activists comes two days after a soldier and two terrorists were killed during an exchange of fire in the region, according to Pakistan army.