Sunday, April 29, 2012

Pakistan: Kidnapped British ICRC Worker Beheaded by Taliban

The decapitated body of British aid worker, Khalil Dale, 60, who had been employed by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in the Baluchistan province of Pakistan, and who was kidnapped on January 5 in Quetta, has been discovered in recent days.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and Foreign Minister William Hague both condemned Mr. Dales execution and lauded the critical humanitarian work he had done over a thirty-year career. Reportedly, the Taliban killed Dale because a demanded monetary ransom had not been paid.

Dale was kidnapped by upwards of eight gunmen near his residence in Quetta when he was intercepted by his kidnappers. He was traveling in a predominantly marked ICRC vehicle when he was kidnapped.

COMMENT: Unfortunately, many foreign governments and international organizations that assign aid workers and other staff into high-threat countries are not particularly good at protecting expats and short-term consultants safe from violent crime and acts of terrorism. Invariably, such organizations "roll the dice" with the lives of individuals whose nationalities are at the top of every extremist's "to do" list.

In my book, STAYING SAFE ABROAD: TRAVELING, WORKING AND LIVING IN A POST-9/11 WORLD, I discuss at length a number of strategies that can be effective in keeping foreign staff safe in high-threat environments (e.g., Pakistan). One of these strategies includes the use of ballistic-resistant and light-armored vehicles in which aid workers are transported in.

Sadly, only Western embassies consistently safeguard their diplomats through the use of ballistic-resistant vehicles. Hence, aid workers are left to their own devices while en-route to meetings in unprotected motor vehicles. This is why many foreigners have been kidnapped while en-route from one place to another.

These same aid organizations permit their employees and contractors to live in superficially protected residences, rather than extensively fortifying residential compounds aimed at reducing the risk of facility attacks and kidnappings. 

Dale, who was from Dumfries, Scotland, had been working in Pakistan for nearly a year. He had worked for the ICRC and the British Red Cross for many years and had had assignments in Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Quetta is the main town of the insurgency-hit Baluchistan province, which borders both Iran and Afghanistan. Situated close to Pakistan's border with southern Afghanistan, it is home to the Quetta Shura - the Taliban's leadership council - and is believed to direct a considerable portion of Taliban activity.

The British Foreign Office advises against "all but essential travel to Quetta" and other parts of Baluchistan, warning on its website ( that "there is a heightened risk from kidnapping and militant activity" in the area. Unfortunately, this advice should have been disseminated earlier than it was to have any benefit to Mr. Dale.

As many of our readers know, Warren Weinstein, 71, in-country director for J.E. Austin Associates was kidnapped from his poorly secured residence in Lahore on August 13, 2011 by a group of gunmen. 

 Ironically, Weinstein was scheduled to leave Pakistan permanently the day after he was kidnapped, suggesting that he had been under surveillance by his captors for some time, who wanted to kidnap him before he returned to the US. He has now been in captivity for nearly eight months and is reportedly being held in North Waziristan under very austere conditions. It is unknown whether he is alive or not.