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UN To Pull Some Staff From Pakistan Over Security

A blood-covered UN employee sits outside his office after a suicide blast in Islamabad on October 5.
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) -- The United Nations will withdraw some of its staff from Pakistan because of safety concerns, a UN spokeswoman said today, highlighting security threats posed by Taliban militants.

"Some percentage of the international staff will be relocated and this relocation includes within the country and outside the country to safer locations," Ishrat Rizvi told Reuters.

Despite military crackdowns, Taliban militants have been carrying out bombings that have spread from their strongholds along a northwest tribal belt to major cities, including one attack near the headquarters of the powerful military.

Rizvi said the relocation was decided because "the safety and security situation in the country and safety of staff members is highly important for the United Nations."

In October, a suicide bomber dressed as a paramilitary soldier blew himself up in an office of the UN World Food Program (WFP) in Islamabad, killing five members of staff.

The withdrawal decision would not end any UN projects in Pakistan, said Rizvi.

The Taliban, who reject any ties with Western powers and want to impose their radical version of Islam, claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing that killed 43 people in the commercial capital of Karachi on December 28 and sparked riots.

"Pakistan is facing its most challenging time for the last few years. In light of this, secretary-general decided to realign the projects and programs of the United Nations in Pakistan," said Rizvi.