British Aid Worker Kidnapped in Pakistan

January 5, 2012

Khalil Dale, a British aid worker employed by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), was kidnapped today at gunpoint while he was driving home from his office in Quetta, Pakistan.

According to witnesses, eight masked gunmen were waiting for Dale in a Toyota Land Cruiser outside of the ICRC’s office in a well-protected neighborhood, home to many international organizations.

A longtime humanitarian aid worker, Dale is no stranger to the dangers inherent in his line of work. From 1991 to 1993, he worked in field hospitals and distributed aid in an area of Somalia where, at the time, 350 people were dying every day from the Biblical-scale famine.   He spoke to FRONTLINE for our 1998 film Ambush in Mogadishu about how the experience became a turning point for the Red Cross:

Usually the Red Cross never ever deals with people with guns. We never carry guns in our vehicles. But in Somalia we had to employ guards and escorts to see us through the dangerous areas and to cross frontlines. I think Somalia was the first for many things, not just for UN armed intervention — peace keepers they call them — but obviously for the Red Cross. Times are changing and the Red Cross isn’t protected as it used to be.

No one has yet claimed responsibility for Dale’s kidnapping. Quetta is located in Pakistan’s restive Baluchistan province, which has been the scene of a decades-long ethnic insurgency; it’s also believed to be where senior Taliban leadership resides. A number of Westerners have been kidnapped in the city in recent years, by both Baluch separatists and Islamic militants.

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