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Suspected militants on motorcycles ambushed a vehicle carrying instructors from a private vocational school in northwest Pakistan on Monday, killing four women and injuring the driver before fleeing, police said. The attack took place in the village of Epi in Mir Ali, a town in the district of North Waziristan in a former tribal region on the border with Afghanistan, said Shafi Ullah Khan Gandapur, district police chief. .

Police said the women killed were sent to the village by the Bravo Institute of Technology in Peshawar, under an agreement with the charity Sabawon Pakistan. They planned to train 140 residents in skilled trades that would allow them to open their own businesses.

“Is this the way to give back to someone for the hard work they did for the poor?” Fayaz Khan, the school’s general manager, told NBC News.

Arfan Ullah Marwat, spokesperson for the Sabawon charity, said women were not their employees.

Gandapur said the attack could have been avoided had police received a request for safety in an area where militants have stepped up attacks on troops in recent months.

The injured driver, Abdul Khaliq, said he saw attackers on two motorcycles open fire and then flee. He said he was hired by the Bravo Institute to take women from Bannu town to Mir Ali town and back.

The attack drew condemnation from human rights activists on social media, most of them demanding swift action against those responsible.

In recent months, Pakistani militants have stepped up their activities in the area, raising concerns that they may regroup in the area, which was a former Taliban stronghold.

The militants also often attack Pakistani troops in the former tribal regions bordering Afghanistan.

The districts of northern and southern Waziristan served as the main base for local and foreign militants until the military secured the areas in 2015.

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