Thursday, August 12, 2010

Attack on medical aid workers in Afghanistan

A painful reminder of the dangers of humanitarian work arrives today as more details were reviled about a recent ambush against medical workers in Afghanistan. A team from the UK who were in Afghanistan to provide eye care were gunned down by militants. Both the Taliban and Hizb-i-Islami claimed responsibility for the attack but the one survivor says the militants spoke like they were from Pakistan.

From the Telegraph, wirter Ben Farmer gives us more details about the attack.

Speaking for the first time since the attack, the Afghan told how several of the charity workers tried to hide under vehicles but were gunned down or hit with grenades as they fled.

Two of the three women in the team, which included the British medic, Dr Karen Woo, 36, jumped into the 4x4 vehicle to try to escape but were killed by a grenade.

When the eight aid workers and two Afghans had been killed, the attackers told associates over a radio: “Everything’s finished. We killed them.”

Details of the interviews with Safiullah, a father-of-three who was the driver for the team, were released by The International Assistant Mission (IAM), which has worked in Afghanistan since 1966.

The team, which comprised Dr Woo, six Americans a German and three Afghans, were ambushed after journeying about 100 miles on foot and horseback through mountains to the province of Nuristan treating eye disease among impoverished villagers.

The team had rejoined their vehicles to drive back to Kabul when they were ambushed at around 8am, soon after fording a swollen stream.

Ten gunmen with covered faces ran towards their victims shooting in the air and demanding their satellite phones.

The team leader, Dr Tom Little, an optometrist who had worked in Afghanistan since the mid-1970s and raised a family, shouted “What’s happening?” before being felled with a blow from an AK-47 assault rifle.

As he tried to regain his feet, he was mortally shot in the torso.

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