Christian NGO identifies killed aid workers, vows to stay in Afghanistan
The International Assistance Mission, a Christian organization whose team of 10 aid workers were ambushed by the Taliban on Friday, said the killings would not chase it from the country.
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The International Assistance Mission (IAM), a Christian group whose 10-member medical team was ambushed by the Taliban on Friday, identified the killed aid workers Monday and pledged to continue in Afghanistan.
But the violent deaths of the group's unarmed medics have highlighted the trend of rising civilian casualties in Afghanistan and is heightening concerns among international aid workers that the Afghan Taliban may try to prevent future relief efforts.
" 'It's devastating for everybody,' executive director Dirk Frans said of the killings. 'Still, I don't think it's actually going to stop our work. We've been here all those years, and, God willing, we'll continue.'
"The group's 50 foreign volunteers and 500 Afghan staff members operate in seven Afghan provinces, with a program budget of $3.6 million in 2009, according to the annual report."
On Friday, the bullet-ridden bodies of IMA's eye-care team, including six Americans, two Afghan men, a German woman, and a British woman, were recovered from the northeastern province of Badakshan. IMA identified them all at a news conference Monday in Kabul, according to The New York Times, which identifies them in an article today.
The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the killings, claiming that the Christian group's volunteers were proselytizing and spying for Western military forces. IMA denies the charge, and its website says it does not use aid to further a religious view.
Aid agencies alarmed
Aid agencies in Afghanistan are reviewing security arrangements in the wake of Friday's attack, reports the British newspaper The Independent:
Many [aid agencies] had until now assumed that the north of Afghanistan was a comparatively safe area to work in. Aid workers spoke yesterday of their worries that the attack signalled increased hostility towards foreign charities and relief agencies.
Aid workers repeatedly voiced their fears that their agencies are finding it harder than ever to show their independence from the foreign armed forces in the country, a crucial step in bringing the local population on board and ensuring their security.
There are also fears that further restrictions on civilian work in Afghanistan will hinder efforts to ensure that the millions of dollars in aid is not being wasted through corruption and incompetence, adds the Independent.