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Pakistan expels Save the Children workers

Staff members of British charity Save the Children have been ordered to leave Pakistan by the country’s government, the aid group said Thursday.

The charity had come under increasing scrutiny by Pakistani authorities because of reports it had helped organize meetings between US intelligence services and a local doctor who allegedly helped locate al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Save the children has denied the allegations and said it has not been given a reason for the expulsion.

Reports say the organization was informed earlier this week by the Ministry of Interior that its six foreign workers would be required to leave the country within two weeks.

The charity employs more than 2000 local workers who will continue to work despite the expulsion.  

Following the US Navy Seal raid in May 2011 which killed bin Laden in Abbottabad, Dr Shakil Afridi, who ran a local vaccination program with assistance from Save the Children, was arrested.

He was accused of using his clinic to collect DNA samples to try and verify the presence of the al Qaeda leader in the city.

Afridi was later convicted and sentenced to 33 years for high treason.

The U.S. has demanded his release but many in Pakistan view him with deep derision for collaborating with a foreign intelligence agency.

Since Afridi’s arrest and detention, many aid groups say it is becoming increasingly difficult to work in the country with Pakistani officials suspicious of foreign workers and locals with ties to international organizations.

Save the Children has operated in Pakistan since 1979 assisting tens of thousands affected by war and natural disasters.

Most recently, the organization has been assisting some of the more than 250,000 people who have fled violence in Pakistan’s chaotic tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

–    Viji Alles

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