UN To Move Workers Out Of Pakistan For Safety

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

MIR ALI, Pakistan — Pakistani intelligence officials say a U.S. missile strike has killed three people near the Afghan border.

The two officials said early Friday's attack destroyed a car carrying three men in a village near Mir Ali, which is a main town in North Waziristan.

It was the second such attack in the region in the last 12 hours.

A U.S. drone missile strike late Thursday also killed three people.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly to the media.

Pakistan is a key ally of Washington in its war on terror but it has publicly opposed such attacks, saying they are counterproductive.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

ISLAMABAD (AP) – The United Nations said Thursday it would relocate about a quarter of the U.N.'s international staff in Pakistan, a response to the increasingly volatile security situation in the country.

At least 11 U.N. workers have been killed in Pakistan this year, and fears of attacks have increased over the past two and a half months. More than 500 people have died in bombings after the army's offensive against militants in South Waziristan, the Pakistani Taliban's main stronghold near the Afghan border.

Late Thursday night, two intelligence officials said a suspected U.S. drone missile strike in North Waziristan had killed three people. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information. It was not possible to independently confirm the report.

The reported strike follows a deadly bombing Monday on a Shiite Muslim religious procession in Karachi, Pakistan's largest city. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which killed 44 people.

Also Thursday, police said they would seek terrorism charges and life sentences against five young Americans arrested in December after allegedly making contact with Taliban leaders.

U.N. security managers are seeking a reduction of up to 30 percent in the U.N.'s international staff working inside Pakistan, a U.N. official told the AP Thursday on condition of anonymity because security details and negotiations are confidential.

However, the actual number is likely to be lower and will depend on negotiations with the various U.N. agency heads who oversee those workers, the official said. The U.N. employs about 250 international and 2,500 national staff in Pakistan.

The official said an undetermined number of national staff will likely be moved out of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province, or NWFP, along the border with Afghanistan, and from the western province of Baluchistan. The U.N. scaled back its operations in Baluchistan in July after a threat by separatists who kidnapped an American aid worker earlier in the year.

In Islamabad, spokeswoman Ishrat Rizvi said around 20 percent of the world body's expatriate workers will either leave Pakistan for six months or be relocated to safer areas within the country. She declined to give specifics on what projects or employees would be affected.

"We are not closing down any programs or projects, we are not scaling back," she said, adding that some long-term programs might be suspended and that the U.N. would reevaluate the security situation in six months.

The U.N. began reviewing its operations after an October attack on the World Food Program office in Islamabad killed five people. The goal was to see how it could operate more effectively and safely in Pakistan without disrupting its humanitarian relief and development aid.

U.N. operations in Pakistan since early 2009 have grown to some $1 billion for the nation's "sustainable development" needs, officials said. Since spring they have also handed out some $475 million in emergency humanitarian aid in northern Pakistan.

The threat from militants took a new turn earlier this month when five Americans, all Muslims from the Washington D.C., area, were arrested in Pakistan, spurring fears that Westerners were traveling to the country to join militant groups. The men, ages 19 to 25, will appear Monday in a Pakistan anti-terrorist court to face charges.

"We are certain that these five Americans wanted to carry out attacks in Pakistan, and we will seek life imprisonment for them," said Tahir Gujar, a senior police investigator on the case.

They were arrested in early December in the eastern city of Sargodha in Pakistan's populous Punjab province, about a week after their families in the United States reported them missing. One of them had left behind a farewell video showing scenes of war and casualties and saying Muslims must be defended.

Under Pakistan's complicated judicial system, the police will recommend the charges during the court appearance on Monday. However, the court might not charge the men immediately, and the five will likely be given time to prepare their defense after they have seen the charges.

Authorities have said the five had a map of Chashma Barrage, a complex that includes a water reservoir and other structures. It is located near nuclear power facilities about 125 miles southwest of Islamabad.

Punjab province Law Minister Rana Sanaullah told the AP last week that the men had planned to meet Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud and his deputy Qari Hussain in Pakistan's tribal regions before going on to attack sites inside Pakistan.

The nuclear power plant "might have been" one of the targets, Sanaullah alleged.

Any nuclear activity in Pakistan tends to come under scrutiny because of growing Islamic militancy and the South Asian nation's past history of leaking sensitive nuclear technology. But as militancy has spread in Pakistan, officials have repeatedly insisted the nuclear weapons program is safe.

The U.S. Embassy would not comment on details of the case due to privacy restrictions. In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Julie Reside said the five had last been visited by a U.S. consular official on Dec. 22.


Associated Press writers Munir Ahmad and Sebastian Abbot in Islamabad contributed to this report.