Save the Children denies link to CIA raid on Bin Laden

Charity hits back after international staff have Pakistan visas denied


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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'