Al-Qaida threatens UN offices in Pakistan

A threatening phone call that forced the United Nations to temporarily close offices in southwestern Pakistan said al-Qaida would attack the world body's offices there, the top U.N. official in Pakistan said Tuesday. The phone call was received Monday by the U.N. High Commission for Refugees, and the United Nations closed all offices in the province of Baluchistan that day and Tuesday, said Jan Vandemoortele, the U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator in Pakistan.

"Al-Qaida was mentioned twice in the phone call," Vandemoortele said, adding that the caller said "they were going to attack the offices." The call came the same day a suicide bomber drove a motorbike into a crowd at a wrestling match just across the nearby border in Afghanistan, killing 20 people.

That was the third deadly bombing in a little over 24 hours in the former Taliban stronghold of southern Afghanistan, which abuts Baluchistan. "It was found to be a credible threat," Vandemoortele said. "Since security is priority No. 1 for me, I decided to withdraw our staff from the field."

There have so far been no attacks or suspicious movements against U.N. operations in the region, Vandemoortele said. The world body has about 25 staffers in the region, mostly based in the provincial capital of Quetta. The United Nations will reassess the security situation on Wednesday and decide then whether to resume operations, he said. It was unclear who made the phone call, but the United Nations was able to log the caller's number and turned it over to authorities.

Pakistani police were investigating the incident, Vandemoortele said. The United Nations has six main agencies operating in Baluchistan, another U.N. official said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. Included in the closures were local offices of the World Food Program and the UNHCR.

Two years ago, aid workers from the United Nations and other international agencies sought refuge in a heavily guarded hotel after Pakistani authorities received intelligence reports that the Taliban were targeting their offices with suicide attacks, reports the AP. N.U.