IRIN, May 30, 2006


Seven aid workers killed in Afghanistan

3 of the victims were women

KABUL, 30 May (IRIN) - Seven aid workers lost their lives in Afghanistan on Tuesday in two separate incidents. At least four were killed in the northern Afghan province of Jawzjan when unidentified gunmen ambushed their vehicle, a government spokesman said in the capital Kabul.

The Afghan aid workers – three women and one man from ActionAid International - were murdered when they were driving to the provincial capital of Sheberghan, Yousuf Stanizai, interior ministry spokesman, said.

"They were all shot inside their car while they were travelling on the road between Abas and Chapa Chi Ariq villages," Stanizai explained.

The NGO works with local groups to support education and health care. The organisation has mobile health teams in Afghanistan that travel to remote villages to treat women.

In a separate incident, a roadside bomb killed three local employees of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in the Daraeem district of the northeast province of Badakhshan, an official confirmed.

"A driver and two local staff members from USAID were killed in a remote controlled bomb attack when their vehicle was on a bridge in Daraeem district at around 14:00 today," Munshi Abdul Majid, governor of Badakhshan, told IRIN.

"However, two Americans accompanying them were safe and sound," Majid added.

Officials have repeatedly blamed the ousted Taliban remnants for such attacks on aid workers in the past. The Taliban have been waging a deadly insurgency in the south and east of the country.

"The gunmen managed to escape from the scene but our security forces have conducted search operation in the area to arrest the perpetrators," Stanizai remarked.

The incidents took place just one day after deadly riots in the capital claimed the lives of eight people and left over 100 wounded. During the riots, apparently sparked by a road accident involving US-led coalition forces, demonstrators set fire to several buildings, including those of aid groups.

Aid workers have frequently been targeted over the past few months. On 12 May, unidentified gunmen attacked a United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) vehicle in the western province of Herat, killing two aid workers and injuring another.

In April, unidentified assailants killed five health ministry workers, including nurses, doctors and a driver, at their clinic in the Qadis district of the northwestern province of Badghis.

A recent spate of violence against aid groups has caused concern among relief agencies in the country where many aid and development NGOs operate.

"Such terrible incidents could cause serious concerns for aid workers, therefore the government should take strict measures for the safety of both national and international aid workers in Afghanistan," said Mohammad Hashim Mayar, head of the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief (ACBAR) in Kabul.

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