4 women social workers killed in north Waziristan

A Pakistani paramilitary soldier stands guard at a checkpost on the Jamrud Road, leading to Afghanistan after its closed by authorities, Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008 in Peshawar, Pakistan. A Pakistani official says a main road used to ferry supplies to U.S and allied troops in Afghanistan has been closed because of an army offensive against militants in northwest Pakistan. (AP Photo/Muhammad Sajjad)

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Suspected Islamist militants in northwestern Pakistan Sunday killed four women working for a non-governmental welfare organization.

Police said the victims were traveling to work when their vehicle was ambushed in North Waziristan tribal district, a former militant sanctuary on the border with Afghanistan.

The district police office said the attack in the town of Mir Ali wounded the male driver, while a fifth women “luckily survived.”

Pakistani security forces were said to be conducting a “search and strike” operation to capture the assailants.

The victims were said to be associated with the Sabawoon charity, which provides training to local women in making handicrafts to enable them to do business from their homes in the deeply conservative Pakistani region.

The aid workers, affiliated with a local women’s skills development project, were shot dead by militants riding two motorbikes when their vehicle was intercepted in Mirali, a town in the North Waziristan district near the Afghan border, local police chief Saifullah Gandapur told reporters.

Suffering bullet wounds, the driver of the car was taken to a hospital where he is said to be out of danger. Another aid worker suffered minor injuries as she jumped out of the car before the gunmen opened fire, the official said.

The attack followed a clash in restive North Waziristan on Saturday between security forces and militants loyal to Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a terrorist umbrella group, which left a security official and two suspected militants dead.

In a separate incident on Sunday night, unidentified armed men killed one person and abducted at least eight others, including a local lawyer in the Shewa area.

According to local police officer Atiq Hussain, armed men intercepted a passenger van and killed its driver and kidnapped passengers.

Hussain said security forces have launched a cordon and search operation to rescue the abductees.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for either attack, but security officials pointed fingers at the TTP.