US-based aid agency shuts offices in Pak provinces over security fears

      The US-based aid agency Mercy Corps is pulling out of Pakistan's Balochistan and Sindh provinces due to security reasons. The move follows the kidnapping of four of the agency's local staff in February, allegedly by pro-Taliban gunmen. One has since been killed and a ransom is being sought for the others. Mercy Corps said that it has decided to shut nearly 50 offices in Balochistan and Sindh as the Pakistan government had done little to help free the men. "The decision has been taken following developments after the kidnapping of our team members," BBC quoted Dr. Saeedullah Khan, head of Mercy Corps operations in Quetta, as saying. "We have protested strongly and are closing down 40 offices in Balochistan, and eight in Sindh province as a protest," he added. Dr. Khan said that a videotape of its employee being murdered had been sent to the organisation, with the ultimatum that the remaining three would also be killed unless a ransom of 100 million rupees was handed over. Mercy Corps' announcement follows similar decisions by several international aid organisations, including the United Nations, to scale back operations in Pakistan since 2009.

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