Aid Workers threaten to pull out of northern Afghanistan

"A female worker was gang raped, a clinic was attacked by gunmen, and a vehicle carrying food for the hungry was shot up", UN

The Associated Press , June 15, 2002

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) 15 June 2002 _ International aid workers are threatening to pull out of northern Afghanistan after a female worker was gang raped, a clinic was attacked by gunmen, and a vehicle carrying food for the hungry was shot up, the United Nations said Saturday.

U.N. special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has complained to Hamid Karzai, the country's newly elected president, and held a meeting Saturday with the three warlords who control the region, said U.N. spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva. All three attacks occurred in the past week in northern Afghanistan, he said.

At least one American aid organization, whose vehicle was attacked on Friday while taking food to a camp for internally displaced Afghans, has already pulled out of the country ``and may not proceed further with their program,'' Almeida said.

"Other NGOS are considering similar actions because of the situation in that part of the country," he said.

The attack happened in Dehdadhi district near the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Balkh province. The group had also been planning on providing a computer center to Balkh University. Those projects are now in question. On June 8, a female international aid worker was gang raped by seven men, who attacked her vehicle and beat up the Afghan staff member accompany her. ``I call the attack vicious,'' said Almeida.

He didn't specify where the assault occurred except that it happened in northern Afghanistan. The United Nations was only told about the gang rape two days ago because the aid organization ``wanted to protect her and put her in a safe place,'' he said.

Last Thursday, gunmen from rival factions opened fire on a health clinic in Sholgara in northern Balkh province. The non-governmental organization running the clinic is considering closing down.

All the incidents have been reported to local authorities, who have refused to take action. The three warlords who control that area _ Gen. Rashid Dostum, currently deputy defense minister, Atta Mohammed, chief commander of the Northern Alliance forces, backed by the U.S., and Mohammed Mohaqik, a key Shiite leader _ are all currently attending the grand tribal council to choose a new transitional government.

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