GENEVA (Reuters) - Casualties from violence across Pakistan since the U.S. killing of Osama bin Laden in May have soared, with many more maimed and injured people going to humanitarian clinics, the ICRC said on Monday.
Pascal Cuttat, outgoing head of operations in the country for the Swiss-based International Committee of the Red Cross, told reporters another effect of bin Laden’s death was an increased suspicion of foreigners, including aid workers.
“Violence has increased considerably since bin Laden was killed, and has spread into urban areas,” said Cuttat. “We are seeing increasing numbers coming into our medical and orthopaedic centres, more than we have seen for many years.
The al Qaeda leader was shot in May by U.S. Navy Seals who landed by helicopter at his secret compound in Abbotabad, north of Karachi.
Pakistan has complained that the operation was a violation of its sovereignty and relations between the two long-time allies have nosedived. The United States has suspended a third of its military aid to Islamabad.
In the latest reported incidence of violence, local authorities said a weekend a suicide bombing in the northwestern town of Battagram killed three policemen and two civilians.
Cuttat, who spent three years overseeing ICRC operations in Pakistan, where the humanitarian body has been present for more than half a century, said he did not see much change in the current climate in the foreseeable future.
“We are planning for much of the same,” he said. Although the ICRC would like to extend its operations, bureaucratic obstacles form the Pakistan authorities were making it more and more difficult to move around for all foreigners.
“We are consistently facing suspicion of any foreigner working in the country ... To live and work and get permission to do anything has become more difficult. Everyone is struggling with the bureaucracy,” Cuttat added.
He said one of his regrets on leaving the country was that he had not been able to obtain better access to prisoners and detainees — one of the key functions of the ICRC in many countries around the world.
Editing by Tom Miles