A SCOTTISH aid worker beheaded by kidnappers in Pakistan is feared to have been killed by Taleban terrorists. The body of Khalil Dale, 60, a Muslim convert from Dumfries, was found dumped by a road in a remote part of Pakistan yesterday, almost four months after he was kidnapped.
A note found with the body said he had been killed because a ransom had not been paid. The Scotsman understands the note also warned that a video of the execution would be released within days.
Police officials also said his body showed evidence of torture.
The identity of the captors remains unknown, but the manner of his killing has led experts to warn that his death could be linked to an insurgent group, rather than criminal killers seeking a ransom.
Friends and politicians in Scotland united in condemning the brutal killing of the former nurse, who “saved thousands of lives”.
Mr Dale, also known as Ken, was working for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Quetta, capital of Baluchistan, one of the most lawless of Pakistan’s regions, when he was snatched in January.
Local officials said his decapitated body was found on a road outside the city yesterday, wrapped tightly in cellophane inside a bag on which was written the address of the local police chief.
According to police, a note with the body said: “We had some demands that were not met, so we killed him.”
The police source added that a video of the execution would be released in the coming days.
Hamid Shakeel, Quetta police chief, said the killing suggested the involvement of the Pakistan Taleban.
“The way the execution took place, a beheading, is typical of the Pakistan Taleban,” he said.
Kidnappings are common in Pakistan, most often by criminal gangs seeking ransoms.
However, westerners are prized assets and can be sold on to al-Qaeda or the Pakistan Taleban for political gain.
One hostage negotiator told The Scotsman the level of ransom asked for the release of Mr Dale would probably have been hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Mr Dale, who was engaged to a nurse, Anne, whom he is thought to have met overseas, converted to Islam 30 years ago.He had worked for the Red Cross in some of the world’s most dangerous places, including Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq.
In Pakistan, he had been working as a health programme manager in Quetta for almost a year.
The city is reputedly home to Afghan Taleban leaders – the so-called Quetta Shura – and is frequently targeted for attacks by Baluch separatist groups.
Those risks put it off-limits for many foreign aid groups, except for those, such as the ICRC, with a reputation for neutrality.
Mr Dale was abducted by masked men carrying AK-47 assault rifles while returning home from work. About eight gunmen stopped his vehicle as it slowed to pass a checkpoint, before forcing him into another car.
Aid officials believe Mr Dale may have been singled out because of the ICRC’s work. “This was not random,” said one.
The ICRC set up a negotiating team and was twice sent evidence that Mr Dale was alive.
Joan McAlpine, MSP for South of Scotland, said she had spoken to Mr Dale’s friends, who were extremely upset.
She said: “Those who knew him say he was a deeply compassionate person who saved thousands of lives in his long career as an aid worker.
“He was a very courageous man, who had run field hospitals in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Sudan. That such a man should be killed without mercy like this is despicable, and a terrible waste of a precious life.”
She said his kidnappers were “vicious criminals motivated by greed”, and added: “Khalil was a long-time convert to Islam and his friends are anxious that his death is not used to whip up hatred against his faith, which is a religion of peace.”
First Minister Alex Salmond said: “The Scottish Government utterly condemns the brutal murder of Khalil Dale, a man who devoted his life to helping others. Mr Dale was a nurse and highly experienced aid worker who had saved many lives in his long service with the International Committee of the Red Cross. He was a brave, skilled and compassionate professional who will be deeply missed.
Prime Minister David Cameron said he was “deeply saddened. This was a shocking and merciless act, carried out by people with no respect for human life and the rule of law”.
He added: “Khalil Dale has dedicated many years of his life to helping some of the most vulnerable people in the world, and my thoughts today are with his friends and family.”
Yves Daccord, the director-general of the ICRC, said humanitarian workers shared the shock of Mr Dale’s friends and family.
“We are devastated,” he said. “Khalil was a trusted and very experienced Red Cross staff member who significantly contributed to the humanitarian cause.”
Mr Dale, who had trained in tropical medicine and was fluent in Arabic and Swahili, said on one of his visits home: “I like the peace and quiet of Dumfries and Galloway, but I get restless and enjoy a challenge.”
He insisted the thought of danger did not worry him. “I just get on with the job and I believe in destiny,” he said. “But I’ll put it this way: I’ve made my will.”
Scottish friends described Mr Dale as “an absolutely lovely guy” who had devoted his life to caring for others.
Retired nurse Sheila Howat, a former colleague at Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary, said: “It’s dreadful what has happened to him, really awful. The world has lost someone who really cared for others.”
She plans to arrange a memorial service in Dumfries, where Mr Dale was a member of Friends of the Earth and the Coalition for Peace and Justice.
Lorry driver Neil Gaffney, 38, of New Abbey, also knew the aid worker well. He said: “He was an absolutely lovely guy and fantastic company. ”
It is thought that Mr Dale, who grew up in Manchester, does not have any remaining family in Scotland since his mother, Margaret, died in 2007. He has a brother, Ian, in New Zealand.
On assignments, he had been imprisoned and tortured, robbed at gunpoint, strafed by machine-gun fire and threatened by a man with a Kalashnikov. In 1994, he was appointed an MBE for his humanitarian work.