The United Nations has pledged to forge ahead with relief operations in Pakistan’s worst-ever floods despite Taliban threats to attack foreign humanitarian workers.
“We will not be deterred from doing what we believe we need to do, which is to help the people of Pakistan,” John Holmes, the UN humanitarian chief, told a news conference at the world body’s headquarters.
“Those threats existed before the floods and we’ve always known that the security issues are there,” he said.
Holmes said that the United Nations would take “appropriate precautions.”
“Even if the security situation has been relatively calm in the last few weeks, we will obviously take these threats seriously as we did before,” Holmes said.
US officials have reported threats by the Taliban to attack foreigners involved in relief in Pakistan, where floods have submerged one-fifth of the nation and affected more than 17 million people.
“We have information of the potential targeting of foreign relief workers in Pakistan, as well as government ministries,” State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters in Washington.
Crowley pointed specifically to the extremist group Tehreek-e-Taliban and voiced concerns that its militants may attack foreigners or government institutions involved in relief efforts.
“I think it just underscores the bankrupt vision that these extremists have,” Crowley said.
He said that the United States — the top donor to relief efforts with more than 150 million dollars in contributions — was working with Pakistani authorities to handle the threat.
“We are talking to and working with the government of Pakistan to do everything we can to make sure that disaster response and Pakistan’s disaster response can continue in light of this threat,” he said.
The United States is hoping that its response to the flood crisis will help ease anti-Americanism in Pakistan, a key priority nation for Washington in its international campaign against Islamic extremism.
Some hardline Islamic groups have tried to play a prominent role in flood relief, seizing on discontent over the initial reaction by Pakistan’s civilian government.