WASHINGTON: A Taliban faction is planning attacks on foreigners participating in flood relief operations in Pakistan, a US official warned on Wednesday.
“According to information available to the US government, Tehrik-e-Taliban plans to conduct attacks against foreigners participating in the ongoing flood relief operations in Pakistan,” the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
“Tehrik-e-Taliban also may be making plans to attack federal and provincial ministers in Islamabad,” the official warned.
The floods have affected an estimated 17.2 million people, of whom at least eight million are believed to need life-saving humanitarian assistance. The United States and other countries have pledged more than 700 million dollars for relief efforts.
US officials had earlier said they had not encountered any hostilities in flying aid to stricken parts of the country. A top US general involved in the American military’s relief efforts told reporters on Wednesday that US forces had faced no security problems.
“We have seen no security threat whatsoever in the three weeks we have been operating here,” Brigadier General Michael Nagata said via video link from Pakistan. He said the Pakistani military “have done a commendable job and a highly effective job in providing our force protection and security while we are here in Pakistan.”
Pakistani forces had provided experienced pilots to guide American helicopters through the rugged terrain of the Swat river valley and “we also have some of their own security guards on our aircraft providing our close-in security,” Nagata said from Ghazi air base.
Amid concerns over security and strong anti-American sentiment, the Pakistani authorities usually distribute the aid that is delivered by US C-130 planes and American military helicopters, officials said.
A small contingent of US special forces who train Pakistani troops tend to keep a low profile, but the emergency relief effort meant some Pakistanis were seeing their country’s troops for the first time working closely with their American counterparts.
US crews were directly involved in rescuing Pakistanis trapped by the devastating flood, with American choppers helping save more than 6,000 people, said Nagata, the second-ranking US officer based in Pakistan.
Pakistani civilians “are impressed when they see Pakistani military service members and United States military service members working side by side, often flying in the same helicopters, working together on these landing zones,” he said.