“But America should make the treatment of known Terrorists out top priority”
By Joshua Partlow – Sunday, August 8, 2010
KABUL — Gunmen killed 10 members of a medical team, including six Americans, traveling in the rugged mountains of northern Afghanistan, demonstrating the reach of insurgents far from their traditional havens and shocking the expatriate community here.
The attack was one of the deadliest on civilian aid workers since the war began in 2001. That it occurred in Badakhshan province, a scenic mountain redoubt considered a peaceful refuge from the war, added to growing concern that the Taliban has seized on northern Afghanistan as its latest front.
The dead have not been officially identified, and the bodies not yet returned to Kabul, but Afghan and Western officials said the victims were thought to be members of a medical team working with a Christian charity group that has decades of experience in Afghanistan. That team, from the International Assistance Mission, lost contact with its office in Kabul on Wednesday, two days before the attack, said Dirk Frans, the group’s executive director.
“We’ve got a team that has gone missing, and then there are 10 people found dead. At the moment we’re working on the assumption that this is the same team,” Frans said.
The Taliban quickly asserted responsibility for the killings, saying the medical workers were “foreign spies” and were spreading Christianity. But police officials have not ruled out robbery as a motive, as the victims were stripped of their belongings after they were shot.
The team members — six Americans, one German, one Briton and four Afghans — were returning from neighboring Nurestan province, where they had spent several days administering eye care to impoverished villagers. They were traveling unarmed and without security guards, Frans said.