Save the Children denies link to CIA raid on Bin Laden

Charity hits back after international staff have Pakistan visas denied

Islamabad

Save the Children last night denied that it had any links to the doctor who helped the CIA eliminate Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad last year, but admitted that rumours of an association may have contributed to its international staff being denied visas.

Many international aid groups in Pakistan are working in an atmosphere of deep suspicion, with their work and movement severely restricted following the emergence of the news last year about the doctor, Shakil Afridi, who was used by the CIA in the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

Dr Afridi was arrested by Pakistani authorities after it emerged he had run a fake vaccination programme on behalf of the CIA as part of efforts to track bin Laden. He helped in confirming the identity of the fugitive al-Qa'ida leader, before US Navy Seals launched a raid on his compound last May. All humanitarian workers are being viewed as potential spies by Pakistani officialdom, while violent extremists have targeted foreign and local staff of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), with a spate of killings and kidnappings that appear linked to the revelations on Dr Shakil Afridi.

Save the Children confirmed yesterday that its international staff had been given two months to leave the country, but said that the authorities in Islamabad had offered no reason for the sudden expulsion.

In an interview with The Independent, Justin Forsyth, the charity's chief executive, said: "This affects six international workers out of 2,000 staff. It is quite a difficult situation. There is some suspicion of international organisations at the moment. It is not that our programme has been shut down but that some of our international workers are having difficulties renewing visas.

"There have been allegations in the Pakistani media that Dr Afridi was somehow linked to Save the Children. It is absolutely untrue. He has never worked for us, we have never paid him, we have never run a vaccination programme in Abbottabad.

"We never rule out being infiltrated but we have absolutely no evidence that this has happened. We are concerned because millions of children in Pakistan rely on Save the Children. We are concerned they don't miss out."

It is thought that Save the Children could now have just one foreign staffer left in Pakistan.

"The use by the CIA of a vaccination campaign to get information is abhorrent to us," said Aine Fay, chair of the Pakistan Humanitarian Forum, which represents a coalition of NGOs working in the country, including Save the Children. "It has hindered NGOs here trying to help some very vulnerable people."

Bureaucracy is being used to throttle aid work. It is now much harder to get visas to come to Pakistan, as well as permission from the government to set up new schemes or visit existing projects. In places like Multan, a town in the centre of the country where two foreign aid workers were abducted last year, a police escort is now mandatory. NGOs have increasingly to dispense with foreign expertise and rely on their local staff for most of the work.

News
peoplePaper attempts to defend itself
Voices
voicesWe desperately need men to be feminists too
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
The Tiger Who Came To Tea
booksJudith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed'
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
News
people
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album