American Aid Worker Gunned Down in Pakistan

Stephen Vance was fatally shot by gunmen in Peshawar.

ByABC News
November 12, 2008, 7:45 AM

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Nov. 12, 2008 — -- He was, as a Pakistani friend called him, "just like us," an American who dressed like the natives, declined Western-style security details and sent his children to local schools.

Stephen Vance was also the head of an American-funded consortium trying desperately -- and quietly -- to help rebuild Pakistan's federally administered tribal areas, the volatile districts along the border with Afghanistan where the Taliban are at their strongest.

This morning as he went to work in Peshawar, police say, the father of five and his driver were shot dead by masked gunmen in one of the city's most upscale neighborhoods.

It is the latest incident targeting not only Americans but anyone employed by a nongovernmental organization who lives and works in the largest city in Pakistan's northwest.

"He was a simple and a very straight-forward person. He was so straight forward that sometimes people thought he was rude, but he was not," said someone who knew Vance, refusing to be identified. "He loved his family, he was a family man. He liked and took care of his local fellow workers."

One colleague said today: "He was a really committed individual. And he was willing to embrace the risks associated [with] living in Peshawar, in that he had his wife and family there."

Vance was one of the few foreigners who embedded himself into the chaotic life of Peshawar. His wife, his mother-in-law and his whole family lived with him; he was one of few Americans in the city who didn't live alone.

His death is a blow to the Western and local groups working to help create jobs, schools and businesses in the tribal areas. U.S. Vice President-elect Joe Biden has argued that the central front of the war on terror is on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and that "the outcome of that battle is going to be determined less by bullets than by dollars and determination."

The United States has earmarked hundreds of millions of dollars for rebuilding those tribal districts, but some of the money has been caught up by bureaucracy and some has been held back because it is so dangerous to work there.