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Red Cross suspends work in Pakistan after staffer's killing

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 12:23 AM EDT, Fri May 11, 2012
Pakistani volunteers carry the body of British aid worker Khalil Rasjed Dale at a hospital in Quetta on April 29.
Pakistani volunteers carry the body of British aid worker Khalil Rasjed Dale at a hospital in Quetta on April 29.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Red Cross worker Khalil Rasjed Dale was abducted and killed
  • The aid agency says it is compelled to reassess its operations in Pakistan
  • It has halted its work despite consequences for the vulnerable
  • A humanitarian coalition says Dale's killing is one in a long list of violence against aid workers

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) -- The International Committee of the Red Cross said Thursday it was suspending its work in Pakistan pending a review of its presence in the South Asian country.

The decision comes after the killing of Khalil Rasjed Dale, a 60-year old health program manager who was abducted four months ago in Balochistan. His body was found last month.

The 900 national staff members of the Red Cross have been placed on paid leave, and 80 foreign staffers have been flown to Islamabad, said spokesman Christian Cardon.

"Over the last few years unfortunately, it has become very dangerous not only in Pakistan but all over the world with the ICRC staff being targeted and coming under attack," Cardon said.

Jacques de Maio, the head of Red Cross operations for South Asia, said the aid agency was compelled to "completely reassess the balance between the humanitarian impact of our activities and the risks faced by our staff."

The organization has halted all all its activities and said it was painfully aware of the consequences on the wounded, sick and other vulnerable people.

The Red Cross has been working in Pakistan since the country's independence in 1947, providing health care, physical rehabilitation and other assistance for victims of violence and natural disasters.

Acid attacks on the rise in Pakistan

It has been instrumental in aid delivery after earthquakes and the devastating 2010 flooding across the nation.

The agency called Dale a "trusted and very experienced Red Cross staff member who significantly contributed to the humanitarian cause."

He had been working in the western city of Quetta and the province of Balochistan for almost a year. Armed men abducted him January 5 as he was returning home from work.

"This is an abhorrent act targeted against a committed humanitarian worker who has dedicated himself and his life to help others in need," said Aine Fay, head of the Pakistan Humanitarian Forum, a coalition of aid agencies.

The forum said Dale's killing was the latest incident in a long line of targeted attacks against humanitarian agencies and staff. The past four years has seen an increase in targeted attacks against national and international humanitarian organizations and staff across Pakistan by violent militant groups and criminals.

"To date none of the perpetrators have been captured or brought to justice, and, at this time seven humanitarian staff continue to be held hostage following their abductions in 2011 and 2012," the forum said.

"This picture of violence against humanitarian organizations and staff is reflective of the violence that has been inflicted on hundreds of innocent people by militants and criminals across Pakistan in the same period," it said.

The forum called on Pakistan's government to condemn such acts of violence and do more to protect aid workers.

CNN's Moni Basu and Aliza Kassim contributed to this report.

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