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The Killid Group
The War Eliminates the BestWritten by Sediqullah Bader
Saturday, 14 August 2010 10:19
The murders of the ten-strong medical team in Badakshan were a bitter blow against those who struggle to bring help to the helpless in this country.
Volunteers, from Afghanistan as well as the U.S., Germany and the UK, joined the group seeking to bring medical assistance to a remote area of Nuristan. They were returning to Kabul via Badakhshan, but last week their bodies were found in Kuran Wa Munjan district, stripped of all their belongings, near their bullet-riddled Land Rovers.
The group included specialists in eye care, dentistry and a surgeon; three women were among those who died. The head of one Afghan charity described the killings as the worst attack on humanitarian workers in 30 years.
The Afghan driver who managed to escape reportedly described the killers as having "long red beards". Safiullah, currently being questioned by the Ministry of Interior, was quoted, by Radio Free Europe, as saying: "They just came straight to us and shot each person one by one. I got down on my knees and started to recite the holy Koran; they left me but shot everyone else."
A spokesman for Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezbe Islami said they killed the workers for spying; then the Taliban said it killed them, for propagating Christianity. But it still has not been confirmed who really killed the aid workers, or why. There are armed groups in remote and insecure areas of the country who commit such acts of violence.
The Nuristan Eye Camp team was co-ordinated by the International Assistance Mission, which has operated in the country for 44 years. The staff were devastated by the murders, said Dirk Frans, the executive director, but he thought it was unlikely the organisation would pull out of Afghanistan.
Outreach work to such remote areas might be halted, though, simply because they no longer had the experienced personnel. He spoke of two Americans in the team, fluent Dari speakers who had both been serving in the country for over three decades: optometrist Dr. Tom Little, the group's leader, and his long-term friend, Bob Terry: they are irreplaceable."
Among those who paid tribute to Little was politician Dr Abdullah Abdullah, who trained under him. He said: "Tom Little used to work in Afghanistan with his heart - he dedicated half of his life to serve the people of Afghanistan."
Known in Kabul as Mr. Tom, Little supervised a network of eye hospitals and clinics largely funded through private donations. He recently earned a doctorate in optometry in the U.S., so he could teach the latest techniques in Afghanistan.
The enemies of Afghans
Little, with his wife Libby, raised a family of three daughters here, through the Soviet invasion, the civil wars and under the Taliban. His widow, speaking in the U.S., described living during the worst years, when a hundred rockets was a good day."
She said she did not feel anger against the killers, adding that her husband had died "where he loved, doing eye care in remote areas."
Many aid organisations have been operating in Afghanistan since the Soviet invasion, helping people living in war zones, who are otherwise barely reachable. Even when the Mujahedin were in power, over 800 NGOs were helping Afghans in areas under Mujahedin control. Currently, there are over 2500 NGOs with no political or military affiliations operating in Afghanistan. They deserve to be supported and welcomed, rather than killed.
Despite the fact that Nuristan is one of the volatile provinces, the local authorities and the people were pleased with the medical team and supported and protected them. But the enemies of Afghans set an ambush for them and committed the atrocity in a remote area, something they were not able to accomplish in Nuristan.
In order to enjoy continued foreign aid and reconstruction, the Afghan government, the international community, the public and even the opposition groups, should work together to provide security for aid workers, and not allow the enemy to deprive the people of civil services and rehabilitation.