Six women aid workers and a male doctor were shot dead by gunmen in Pakistan yesterday.

The charity they worked for said it suspected the attacks were linked to recent murders of polio vaccination workers.

The shooting in Swabi district, about 75km northwest of the capital of Islamabad, was the first attack on aid workers in the area.

District police officer Abdur Rashid Khan said their vehicle was targeted as they returned home from work at a children's community centre run by Pakistani charity Ujala, or Light.

Their driver was seriously wounded in the attack.

The victims worked at the centre for aid agency Support With Working Solutions, whose head Javed Akhtar said they had told their other 160 staff to suspend work following the killings.

The organisation is involved in health education in underdeveloped parts of the country, Mr Akhtar said.

It had run a school and dispensary in Swabi and helped vaccinate children against polio, a disease that can cripple or kill within hours of infection.

Mr Akhtar said: "This seemed to be part of the campaign against the polio drive by certain anti-polio elements."

Two weeks ago, gunmen killed nine health workers taking part in a national polio vaccination drive in a series of attacks.

The Taliban said they did not carry out those attacks, although its leaders have repeatedly denounced the vaccination programme as a plot to sterilise people or spy on Muslims.