Hizb-i-Islami, Taliban both claim killing 10 medical workers in northern Afghanistan


Map of Afghanistan’s provinces. Click map to view larger image.

Both the Taliban and the Hizb-i-Islam Gulbuddin claimed to have killed 10 medical personnel, including eight foreigners, during an ambush in the remote northeastern province of Badakhshan.

The 10 aid workers were traveling to Kabul from Nuristan province, and passed through a forest in Badakhshan, where they were ambushed and executed on Thursday, Aqa Noor Kintoz, the Provincial Police Chief of Badakhshan told TOLOnews.

“These ten persons came to Badakhshan through Panjshir, and introduced themselves as doctors, and returned to Nuristan after a few days,” the police chief said. “While returning from Nuristan province to Keran district of Badakhshan, ten militants followed them on the way, killing them after they escaped to the jungles, and they took their money as well.”

Six of the medical workers killed were Americans, two were Afghans, one was a Briton, and another was a German, Voice of America reported. Two other Afghans with the group escaped; one claimed he was freed after he recited passages from the Koran.

A spokesman from Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin, or HIG, contacted TOLOnews and said the 10 medical workers were killed because they were “spies” who “had gone to the province for espionage.” A Hizb-i-Islami spokesman also contacted Pajhwok Afghan News to claim the attack.

A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, also claimed the murder of the 10 aid workers and said they were killed for proselytizing Christianity. Mujahid told Reuters that the medical team had Bibles translated in Dari in their possession when they were shot and killed.

The 10 medical workers worked for International Assistance Mission, “an international charitable, non-profit, Christian organization, serving the people of Afghanistan, through capacity building in the sectors of Health and Economic Development,” according to the group’s website. The director of International Assistance Mission told Voice of America that the medical workers were not missionaries.

“This tragedy negatively impacts our ability to continue serving the Afghan people as IAM has been doing since 1966,” said a statement released on the International Assistance Mission website. “We hope it will not stop our work that benefits over a quarter of a million Afghans each year.”

Security in Badakhshan and the neighboring province of Takhar has deteriorated over the past year as US forces have withdrawn from remote districts in nearby Kunar and Nuristan provinces. Attacks against the government, Afghan security forces, and civilians have spiked in Badakhshan and Takhar. Afghan intelligence officials have intercepted rogue Pakistani Frontier Corps personnel and Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence directorate agents penetrating Badakhshan from Kunar over the past year.

Background on Hekmatyar and HIG

The Taliban and HIG often conduct operations jointly in northern and eastern Afghanistan. HIG, along with the Haqqani Network and Mullah Omar’s Quetta Shura, make up the three strongest terror groups in Afghanistan. All have close ties to al Qaeda and other jihadist groups based in Pakistan and Central Asia.

HIG is led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a notorious opportunist who has ties with al Qaeda, Iran, and Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment.

Hekmatyar was a key player in the Soviet-Afghan war and led one of the biggest insurgent factions against Soviet and Afghan communist forces. But Hekmatyar’s brutal battlefield tactics and wanton destruction of Kabul following the collapse of the Afghan Communist regime in the early 1990s led to the demise of his popularity. The Taliban overran his last stronghold south of Kabul in 1995 and forced him into exile in Iran from 1996-2002.

HIG forces have conducted attacks in northern and northeastern Afghanistan, and have bases in Pakistan’s Swat Valley as well as in the tribal agencies of Bajaur, Mohmand, and North and South Waziristan.

In May 2006, Hekmatyar swore alliance to al Qaeda’s top leader, Osama bin Laden. “We thank all Arab mujahideen, particularly Sheikh Osama Bin Laden, Dr. Ayman al Zawahiri, and other leaders who helped us in our jihad against the Russians,” he said in a recording broadcast by Al Jazeera.

“They fought our enemies and made dear sacrifices,” Hekmatyar continued. “Neither we nor the future generations will forget this great favor. We beseech Almighty God to grant us success and help us fulfill our duty toward them and enable us to return their favor and reciprocate their support and sacrifices. We hope to take part with them in a battle which they will lead and raise its banner. We stand beside and support them.”

Despite Hekmatyar’s pledge to al Qaeda, senior US generals have stated that he can be weaned from the insurgency and brought into the Afghan government. Earlier this year, Major General Michael Flynn, the top intelligence official in Afghanistan, called both Hekmatyar and Jalaluddin “Haqqani “absolutely salvageable” even if they currently support and harbor al Qaeda.

“The HIG already have members in Karzai’s government, and it could evolve into a political party, even though Hekmatyar may be providing al Qaeda leaders refuge in Kunar,” Flynn told The Atlantic. “Hekmatyar has reconcilable ambitions.”

Sir Graeme Lamb, a senior adviser to General McChrystal, the former ISAF commander, echoed Flynn’s view on Hekmatyar and Haqqani, and discounted the groups’ close ties to al Qaeda.

“Haqqani and Hekmatyar are pragmatists tied to the probability of outcomes,” Lamb also told The Atlantic. “With all the talk of Islamic ideology, this is the land of the deal.”

Many Western observers believe a peace deal can be reached with Hekmatyar. Several of his representatives have met Afghan government representatives in talks over the past year, and many people were excited when Hekmatyar released a so-called peace plan in February and again in March. The plan called for the full withdrawal of NATO forces by the summer of 2011 and the dismissal of the Afghan government.

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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  • owby says:

    When the end comes for the US in Afghanistan and they are left with the Taliban and al Qaeda for a government, they can thank themselves for calling down the unredeemable hell they will live in.

  • Walter Sobchak says:

    Kurtz was correct.

  • Charu says:

    @owby, are you blaming the Afghans for being saddled with the Taliban and al Qaeda? That is a fundamental misreading of history. The non-Pashtun Afghans heroically resisted the Taliban while we continued to pamper Pakistan’s military during the period leading up to 9-11and then airlifted them to safety at Kunduz to fight us another day!!! We turned a blind eye to Pakistan-inspired Taliban atrocities during the siege of Kabul and the ensuing reign of terror; look no further than the RAWA website which showed graphically the brutal acts of the Taliban on Afghan civilians during the lost period before 9-11. If anyone has a legitimate beef over being abandoned after the Soviet-Afghan war, it is the Afghans and certainly not the Pakistanis who took full advantage of our non-interest. If we abandon the Afghans again, there will certainly be enormous suffering and misery in stow for Afghans under the hands of the Pakistani Svengalis and their Taliban proxies. While this is a tragedy of epic proportions, our real concern should be the expansion of safe havens for al Qaeda to freely operate, and the form of the next 9-11 attack that could emerge from here… dirty bombs in our cities? This is a war that we need to win, or at least contain so that the Taliban/ Pakistan/ al Qaeda gain no real advantage and are too busy fighting for their survival to organize a serious threat to us.

  • Max says:

    You can be sure that the blood of these innocent people will not be forgotten by God.

  • owby says:

    @Charu The Taliban and especially al Qaeda are living among the ethnic Sunni Pashtuns who are the majority population of Afghanistan and western Pakistan. I know about the Northern Alliance, the genocide against the Shia Hazara, the brutal fighting after the Soviets withdrew,the destruction of everything of art and beauty perpetrated by the Taliban. I am very familiar with the history of Afghanistan. I just don’t think we owed them anything, then or now
    Without the support or at least passive acceptance of the local population the Taliban can’t live. We are fighting the husbands, fathers, brothers, uncles, and cousins of the people who call themselves civilians. The Taliban sleep in their villages, the villagers provide their food and hide their weapons, the Taliban provide their system of law, so in my mind that makes the locals their supply train and therefore the people are responsible. Karzai and his corrupt government don’t have control of anything outside of Kabul and maybe two or three other cities. We don’t owe the Afghans anything and they for the most part don’t want us there. Leave them fend for themselves.

  • JRP says:

    I have no doubt whatsoever that the likes of Wikileaks, Hugo Chavez, and the host of groups that revel in despising the U.S.A., but never even raise an eyebrow when confronted by 100% proof of the brutality of our enemy, will figure out why this ghastly atrocity against humanity is solely and exclusively America’s fault.

  • Charu says:

    @Max, whose God? Isn’t this the crux of the problem? Today’s reports state that these victims (martyrs?) were associated with a Christian missionary group, and were allegedly carrying bibles in Dari. This would be the equivalent of bringing gas to the scene of a forest fire, no matter how good the intentions are.

  • Zeissa says:

    Another day, another 300 soldiers. Soon these NGOs will be better protected.

  • Steve Hoffman says:

    I met Tom and his family many years ago in Afghanistan and have admired their service to the people there, now for over 30 years, and in good times and bad times. Psalm 37: 7-15 is a passage from the Bible I am using as a backdrop for my own thinking more about this. This situation has certainly caused me to think and pray very deeply. May the people of this region find the peace they long for. May many more Tom Little’s rise up to fill his place.

  • Paul says:

    new targets for the drones…….fire away!

  • Charu says:

    @owsby, OK, we don’t “owe” the Afghans anything. We helped them defeat the Soviets and that ought to have been enough. However, our own self-interest would suggest that we need to prevent al Qaeda from returning to Afghanistan because of what happened the last time they had free reign over that country. Assuming that the Afghans (Pashtuns) are willingly giving support to the Taliban, and I don’t believe this to be the case, leaving the Afghans to fend for themselves is a sure recipe for the tragic repeat of 9-11 or worse; especially since we are simultaneously financing the Taliban’s puppeteers.

  • Bill Baar says:

    I really doubt religion had much to do with this. A friend of mind reopened the first Hospital for Women after the US liberated the place from the Taliban. The Taliban don’t believe in Health Care for women. They shut it down. It doesn’t matter what language your bible is written in…you treat people, you’re a threat to the Taliban’s plan.

  • ArneFufkin says:

    @Steve Hoffman: Very sorry for the loss of your friend. These were special people.

  • Rhyno327 says:

    these people were targeted for robbery and execution. Its seems that way. A soft target, no body guards, no guns. They must have had big hearts and cared deeply about the situation. They should NEVER have gone off by themselves. A fatal mistake. IF there is a “GOD” i hope HE strikes these dogs down. Probably come in the form of a Hellfire missle. GOD HAS SPOKEN.

  • Render says:

    Those people had been going off by themselves in Afghanistan, doing medical deeds, in at least one case for over thirty years.
    They went unarmed and unescorted because they were doctors. Until last year the volunteer medical teams and mine removal teams were pretty much left alone by the locals and even by the local thugs.
    Things have changed.

  • Mr T says:

    Murderer Omar said that it was ok to target innocent civilians.
    Read as “anyone who stands in my way can be killed”. Sounds a little desperate to me.

  • Steve Hoffman says:

    @arnefufkin – thanks for your kind response.
    All … My thinking has taken me to ask the question about how younger generations around the globe – in the Afghan village that Tom Little served, and in my U.S. neighborhood – gain the character and internal capacity to respond constructively to increasingly difficult global situations. They will need a life tool kit that is more diverse than just a bigger set of weapons, or strategy of revenge.
    I come out of a military family and some military background myself but see the importance, more clearly in hind sight, of what Tom Little and team modeled to these younger generations … service that strengthens people and communities, even at the risk of your life. And, the decision of Tom’s International Assistance Mission to rebuild its staff and return to the field models a spirit of perseverance that is lacking today. This model inspires, and is contagious … it is part of what younger generations seek for their life tool kits.
    Well, this is my last post on this. Thanks for the dialogue.
    My hope is that some of the Afghan young men and women in the in the village, and some young men and women here in the U.S. spotted the lesson.


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