The Taliban hinted on Thursday they may launch attacks against foreigners helping Pakistan respond to the worst floods in the country's history, saying their presence was "unacceptable." The UN said it would not be deterred by violent threats.
The militant group has attacked aid workers in the country before, and an outbreak of violence could complicate a relief effort that has already struggled to reach the 8 million people who are in need of emergency assistance.
Pakistani Taliban spokesman Azam Tariq claimed the US and other countries that have pledged support are not really focused on providing aid to flood victims but had other motives he did not specify.
"Behind the scenes they have certain intentions, but on the face they are talking of relief and help," Tariq said by telephone from an undisclosed location. "No relief is reaching the affected people, and when the victims are not receiving help, then this horde of foreigners is not acceptable to us at all."
He strongly hinted that the militants could resort to violence, saying "when we say something is unacceptable to us, one can draw his own conclusion."
Foreign countries have pledged nearly USD 800 million and provided aid workers to help Pakistan cope with floods that began almost a month ago with the onset of the monsoon and have ravaged a massive swath of Pakistan, from the mountainous north to its agricultural heartland.
United Nations spokesman Maurizio Giulano said the international organization cannot let violent threats deter its relief effort.
"There is a lot of work ahead and millions of people who need our assistance," said Giulano. "We would find it inhumane for someone to target us and our work, effectively harming the millions of people whose lives we strive to save."