Seven are dead in Northwest Pakistan after Islamic militants ambushed a vehicle in which five female teachers and two non-governmental aid workers were traveling.
No individuals or groups have claimed responsibility for the attack, although it resembles closely several prior incidents conducted by the Taliban in both execution and choice of targets.
The seven were thought to be targeted, at least in part, because of their commitment to delivering vaccinations to Pakistani children. A push to immunize Pakistanis from the threat of polio has been met with resistance by Islamic militant groups including those considered part of the Taliban, who suspect that vaccines for polio and other life-threatening illnesses cause sterilization.
Nine people were killed in December because of their work to deliver polio vaccines to Pakistani children.
It is likely that the militants chose their targets for a host of reasons, as those promoting the education of girls, delivering a modern/”Western” education, and basic healthcare programs have all been targeted:
That attack was in an area where Islamic militants often target women and girls trying to get an education or female teachers.
Militants in the province have blown up schools and killed female educators. They have also kidnapped and killed aid workers, viewing them as promoting a foreign agenda.
The victims were on their way home from a primary and secondary school at which they worked — a school that militants see as promoting a foreign agenda by its existence and efforts.
Murad Khan said his daughter was studying at the primary school, which provided free books and uniforms to students. He said many people in the area are now worried that the school and clinic will close.
“This school is like a gift for all of us, the poor people of the village,” he said. “People in our area are sad.”
Last fall, 14-year old Malala Yousafzai, an advocate of education for girls and a blogger with an international readership, was shot in the same province in which the latest attack occurred. And in the same month that the shooting of Yousafzai gained international attention, news sources reported that a group of Pakistani girls were attacked with acid for pursuing a “Western” education. Taliban forces claimed responsibility for both attacks.
Yousafzai survived the shooting and continues to undergo rehabilitation.