Entries in Assassinations (2)


NGO Head: CIA Shares Blame for Murdered Health Workers

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Two days after gunmen killed seven of his employees, the head of a Pakistani aid organization blamed their deaths not only on the militants who pulled the trigger, but also on America's Central Intelligence Agency.

"The militants are taking revenge for the fake [vaccination] program in Abbottabad," Javed Akhtar, the executive director of the non-governmental organization (NGO) Support With Working Solution, told ABC News in a telephone interview.

Akhtar was referring to a hepatitis vaccination program created by the CIA and run by Pakistani Dr. Shakil Afridi in the town where Osama bin Laden lived. Afridi and a team of Pakistani nurses worked in the town, hoping to obtain a DNA sample from a bin Laden family member to prove he was living there. The campaign failed to get bin Laden DNA, admitted a senior U.S. official at the time, although Afridi did speak on the phone with Osama bin Laden's courier, whom the CIA used to track down the terror leader.

Bin Laden was killed on May 1, 2011 in a nighttime raid by America's elite Naval Special Warfare Development Group, commonly known as SEAL Team Six. Afridi was arrested after the raid and remains in Pakistani custody, convicted of treason. He never finished administering the vaccination regimen he started on some of the town's children.

The United Nations, international and Pakistani NGOs have criticized the CIA in the past, but Akhtar's accusation is among the first times a health worker in Pakistan has directly linked the death of vaccine distributors to the CIA's Abbottabad campaign.

Seven of his employees, including six women, were brutally killed Tuesday as they travelled in northwest Pakistan. The teachers and health workers ran a school for 150 girls, a maternity health clinic and distributed the polio vaccine. Their deaths come just three weeks after nine other vaccine workers were assassinated elsewhere in Pakistan. No group has publicly taken responsibility for the attacks, but officials suspect the Pakistani Taliban.

Vaccine distributors, many of whom are women, said they are now too scared to work anymore. One echoed Akhtar's criticism and linked December's and Monday's attacks to the CIA program. They are especially angered by the fact that Afridi did not complete the hepatitis vaccinations.

"We were never threatened before the fake program of Dr. Afridi," a female health worker told ABC News, requesting anonymity. "The militants now see us as foreign spies."

The CIA declined comment for this report, but a senior counterterrorism official with knowledge of operations against al Qaeda in Pakistan defended the vaccine program, arguing it was "limited" and "real."

"They [the vaccinations] were conducted by genuine medical professionals," said the official. "The idea that these were in any way 'fake' is simply mistaken. Many Pakistani children received vaccinations, and if the effort had not been interrupted by the arrest of the doctor, they would have been fully immunized." The official added that "the plan was for everyone to get the full course of treatments."

Pakistan has seen a long-running campaign by militants and conservative religious leaders against vaccines, female health workers and female educators. Long before the CIA vaccination campaign, Taliban leaders argued polio drops were American attempts to sterilize children or collect intelligence information. Militants often threatened anyone who represented the government of the West.

"Militants go after representation of the state," said Christine Fair, a Pakistan expert and professor at Georgetown University. "They go after health care workers as part of their evolving inventory of targets that really shake people's confidence in the state's ability to protect them."

But while in the past militants might have threatened vaccine distributors or aid workers, they usually stopped short of attacking them.

That's why Akhtar and other Pakistani health workers are pointing to the CIA campaign. The three deadly attacks on female health workers in the last three weeks is an unprecedented assault on polio vaccinations in Pakistan, one of only three countries in the world where the disease is still endemic.

Health workers have made massive gains against polio in Pakistan. In the early 1990s, more than 20,000 children contracted polio, but that dropped to 28 in 2005, according to the World Health Organization. Cases fluctuated in the years since. They rose to 190 in 2011 before dropping again this year.

But Pakistani health workers warn the violence may prevent them from doing their jobs, risking some of the hard-won progress.

"I am now too scared to carry on. My parents have told me that I cannot carry on my job," said Nazia, a health worker in northwest Pakistan who asked that neither her last name nor her exact location are disclosed. "I don't know yet but I would like to carry on with my job. If people like us stop doing our job, our children will be at risk."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Iran Claims Arrests of Israeli 'Terrorists'

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The Iranian government claimed Tuesday that it had arrested members of an Israeli-backed "terror" network plotting assassinations and sabotage inside the country.

Iran's intelligence ministry announced via state-run media that it had disbanded a "large and sophisticated Israeli terror and sabotage network after months of operations" just as the network was planning fresh attacks.

The statement also said that the government's apprehension of the "devils led to the discovery of the Zionists' regional command center" in a third country.

Iran has blamed Israel, the UK and the U.S. for a series of assassinations of nuclear scientists and explosions and disruptions at missile sites that began in 2007.

Iran has also accused neighboring Azerbaijan of sheltering spies who are planning attacks inside Iran. Iranian state media quoted an unidentified government official saying that "heavy bombs, machine guns, hand guns" and telecommunication equipment were recovered during the arrests, and that some arrests involved firefights.

Iranian accounts also cited past arrests of alleged "CIA and Israeli spies," saying that Iranian intelligence had disrupted an "espionage network" with a dozen members in Iran and Lebanon with the help of Hezbollah in 2011. U.S. officials confirmed to ABC News in November 2011 that Iran and Hezbollah had "rolled up" two distinct CIA espionage networks.

Time magazine reported in March that Israel was scaling back covert operations inside Iran, including assassinations, sabotage and spy recruitment, because of concerns that its networks had been compromised. According to Time, security officials said the confession by Majid Jamali Fashi that he had assassinated nuclear scientist Massoud Ali Mohammad by motorcycle bomb in January 2010 was legitimate. Fashi, who has been sentenced to death, claimed that he was paid $120,000 by Mossad to carry out the hit.

Several of the scientists who were killed or wounded by unknown assailants in Iran were attacked by motorcyclists using so-called "sticky" magnetic bombs, or via bombs apparently placed inside motorcycles. In two incidents of apparent attempted retaliation, a motorcyclist placed a sticky bomb on an Israeli vehicle in India, and Iranian suspects were allegedly interrupted before they could mount an attack in Bangkok.

Azerbaijani authorities said they had disrupted a similar Iranian plot against Israeli, U.S. and Jewish targets inside Azerbaijan, and accused the suspects of links to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. The 22 Azerbaijani nationals arrested in the alleged conspiracy in March were originally accused of treason, but now reportedly face only drugs and weapons charges.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio