Gunmen kill four female aid workers in north-west Pakistan

PESHAWAR (AFP) - Four women aid workers were gunned down on Monday (Feb 22) in a restive part of north-western Pakistan, police said, as a fresh wave of extremist violence rattles the Afghan borderlands.

The aid workers were ambushed by two gunmen as they were driving through a village in North Waziristan district, according to local police chief Shafiullah Gandapur, who said just one passenger survived the assault. "No one has claimed responsibility for the attack so far but it was surely an act of terrorism," he told AFP.

Mr Gandapur said the aid workers were affiliated with a programme run by a local institute to develop household skills for women. The incident and death toll was confirmed by Mr Rasul Khan, another local police official.

The so-called tribal areas along the Afghan border remain notorious for the availability of cheap guns, drugs and smuggled goods. The region was once home to a wide array of militant groups and was a focal point in the global war on terror.

Attacks have decreased in recent years following a series of military offensives against homegrown and foreign militants. In 2014, the army launched a massive operation to wipe out militant bases in North Waziristan aimed at ending a near decade-long insurgency that cost thousands of lives.

But militant groups are still able to carry out sporadic, isolated assaults. A recent surge in attacks targeting security forces along the Afghan border has sparked fears that militant groups may be regrouping.

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