* Kidnapped Red Cross worker found beheaded in April
* Several offices closed, relief projects stopped
* Hopes to re-open field hospital in Peshawar
By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA, Aug 28 The International Committee of
the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Tuesday it was halting most of its
aid programmes in Pakistan due to deteriorating security and the
beheading of a British staff doctor in April blamed on Taliban
The independent agency, which had already suspended
operations in three of Pakistan's four provinces in May pending
a security assessment, said it would carry on working in the
country "but on a reduced scale".
"All relief and protection activities are being stopped. All
projects of rehabilitation, economic projects, have been
terminated," said Jacques de Maio, head of ICRC operations in
South Asia, on one of the organisation's blog.
"We have closed a number of offices. We are also terminating
all visits to detainees in Pakistan," he added.
The agency, which rarely suspends its operations even in war
zones, has worked in the country since the end of British
colonial rule in 1947.
It was providing mainly health services and physical
rehabilitation for victims of violence and natural disasters,
many of whom have lost limbs.
The ICRC said it would focus on treating patients wounded in
fighting and aimed to reopen a surgical field hospital in
Peshawar. It has been closed since the murder of staff member
Khalil Rasjed Dale, abducted by suspected militants in January.
The beheaded body of Dale, who ran a health programme in the
southwestern city of Quetta in the Baluchistan province, was
found on April 29.
De Maio said the plan was for Peshawar hospital to be its
"flagship" operation in the country ... "unless we determine in
the next few weeks that the prerequisites are not fulfilled and
therefore the conditions are not met for us to redeploy".
ICRC offices in Sindh province, where flood recovery work is
now complete, and in Quetta are being closed, the agency said.
In 2011, Pakistan was one of the largest ICRC operations in
the world. The delegation employed 1,300 staff who assisted
hundreds of thousands of people.
"We are ready to continue helping people in need, such as
the wounded and the physically disabled, provided working
conditions for our staff are adequate," Paul Castella, head of
the ICRC delegation in Islamabad, said in Tuesday's statement.
Dale was the third Westerner to be beheaded by militants in
Pakistan. The others include Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel
Pearl in 2002 and Piotr Stanczak, a Polish geologist, in 2009.
A senior police officer said when Dale's body was recovered
that the Pakistan Taliban had claimed responsibility for the
killing, saying a ransom had not been paid.
The Pakistan Taliban have been fighting a bloody insurgency
against the Pakistani state since the group was formed 2007. It
is close to al Qaeda and it claimed credit for a failed car bomb
attempt in New York's Times Square in May 2010.
Pro-Taliban militants are also active in Baluchistan, which
shares borders with Afghanistan and Iran.
Pakistan is an increasingly dangerous environment for aid
Gunmen in Pakistan shot and wounded a staff member of the
World Health Organization and an expatriate consultant working
for the United Nations health agency in July.
A month earlier, a Pakistani militant group threatened
action against anyone conducting polio vaccinations in the
region where it is based, saying the health care drive was a
cover for U.S. spies.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Andrew Heavens)