Afghan Taliban denies involvement in murder of Red Cross workers

The Afghan Taliban denied any involvement in the murder of six workers from the International Committee of the Red Cross Afghanistan and the disappearance of two more workers today in Jawzjan province. Instead, the Taliban said the attack was the work of “kidnappers.”

“Attack on @ICRC_af convoy in Turkmen Qaduq area, Qushtepa district #Jowzjan has no connection with Mujahidin, it is the work of kidnappers,” the Taliban’s official spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, wrote on his Twitter account.

While the Taliban has made it a point of late to claim it has no intentions of targeting non-governmental organizations like the Red Cross who are helping the Afghan people, the Taliban has been implicated in deadly assaults in the past. In 2003, a Taliban commander known as Abdul Hafiz was involved in the kidnapping and murder of Red Cross employee Ricardo Munguía. Hafiz was captured, detained at Guantanamo Bay, and inexplicably, released to Afghan custody and promptly freed. Upon his release in 2010, Hafiz quickly rejoined the Taliban and took over a committee that deals with ransoms and engagement with nongovernmental organizations.

In an official statement released on its website, the International Committee of the Red Cross Afghanistan released a statement confirming that eight of its workers came under what it called a “deliberate attack.”

Six staff members of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have been shot and killed in Afghanistan. Two staff members are unaccounted for.

The team, composed of three drivers and five field officers, was on its way to deliver much-needed livestock materials in an area south of the town of Shibergan in Jawzan province. Their convoy was attacked by unknown armed men.

“This is a despicable act. Nothing can justify the murder of our colleagues and dear friends,” said the head of the ICRC delegation in Afghanistan, Monica Zanarelli. “At this point, it’s premature for us to determine the impact of this appalling incident on our operations in Afghanistan. We want to collect ourselves as a team and support each other in processing this incomprehensible act and finding our two unaccounted for colleagues,” said Mrs Zanarelli,

No terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the attack, and as the Red Cross noted, “It is not yet clear who carried out the attack or why.”

It is certainly possible that the Islamic State could have killed the Red Cross employees. A faction of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which merged with the Islamic State’s Khorasan province, is known to operate in Jawzjan. The Islamic State’s Khorasan province has not yet claimed any responsibility for the attack.

Numerous other attacks on aid groups have been documented. In Aug. 2010, both the Taliban and the Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin claimed credit for executing 10 medical personnel, including eight foreigners, during an ambush in the remote northeastern province of Badakhshan. And the Taliban claimed credit for its suicide assault against the office of the International Organization for Migration in Kabul on May 26, 2013.

The Taliban has also denied involvement in the June 2013 attack on a Red Cross office in Nangarhar province in May 2013. However, that attack was very similar to other suicide assaults executed by the Taliban.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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