Aid group attacked in northwest Pakistan

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Suspected militants attacked the offices of an international aid group in Pakistan today, killing six employees and wounding at least four others, police said.

Attackers armed with grenades targeted World Vision, a large Christian humanitarian group helping earthquake survivors in north-west Pakistan. All the victims were Pakistanis.

The attack took place in Ogi, a small town in Mansehra district which was badly hit by the 2005 Kashmir earthquake.

"We are deeply sorry we've lost staff members who were locals who were deeply committed to improving lives in Pakistan," said James East, a World Vision spokesman.

Two women were among the six dead, said Sajid Khan, an area police chief.

Al Qaida, the Taliban and allied groups are strong in north-west Pakistan, but Mansehra lies outside the tribal belt next to Afghanistan where the militants have their main bases.

Extremists have killed other people working for foreign aid groups in Pakistan and issued statements saying such organisations were working against Islam, greatly hampering efforts to raise living standards in the desperately poor region. Many groups have scaled down operations in the north west or pulled out altogether.

Islamist militants see foreign aid groups and local outfits that receive international funds as a challenge to their authority in regions under their influence. The organisations often employ women and support female rights initiatives, further angering the extremists.

Many foreign aid groups set up offices in Mansehra after the 2005 earthquake, which killed about 80,000 people.

In 2008, militants there killed four Pakistanis working for Plan International, a British-based charity that mainly helps children.