Clinton calls slaughter of medics a 'despicable act of violence'
Published 09/08/2010 | 05:00
the Taliban claimed responsibility for the slaughter of six Americans, a Briton, a German and two Afghans in northern Afghanistan.
The murders were described as a "despicable act" by the US last night.
The victims were medical staff from the state-run Noor hospital in Kabul, Agha Noor Kemtuz, provincial police chief of Badakhshan confirmed. The group had been travelling for 15 days in Panjsher, Nuristan and Badakhshan provinces. The bodies were recovered in a remote forested area.
"Two days ago, they returned to Karan wa Manjan and stopped their vehicles to have dinner," a witness said. "A group of insurgents with long white and black beards and long white Afghan clothes with turbans arrived."
The Taliban rebels searched the pockets of the group, took their money and after several minutes shot and killed them.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned the killings as a "despicable act of wanton violence".
"They were doctors, nurses and medical technicians and their mission was humanitarian and wholly independent from that of any government," Ms Clinton said in a statement.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed, reached by phone from an unknown location, said the group claimed responsibility for the killings of 10 -- five men and four women and a translator in the area.
"They were not doctors. They were trying to spread the Christian religion in Karan wa Manjan," Mr Mujahed said. "And at the other hand they were spies. Our Mujahedeen people arrived there and tried to stop them, but they escaped and our Mujahedeen had to open fire on them."
The International Assistance Mission (IAM), which describes itself as an international Christian organisation providing education and health aid in Afghanistan, said on its website it has been informed that 10 foreign and Afghan people, likely members of a team providing eye care in communities in Nuristan, were killed while returning to Kabul.
"This tragedy negatively impacts our ability to continue serving the Afghan people as IAM has been doing since 1966," according to a statement on the website. "We hope it will not stop our work that benefits over a quarter of a million Afghans each year."
One of the Americans was Tom Little, a 61-year-old optometrist from New York who had once hid in a basement from the Taliban in the 1990s and survived rocket attacks during his four decades in Afghanistan, the 'New York Times' reported.
Another American was Thomas Grams (51), who had quit his dental practice in Colorado four years ago to work with a group that provides free dental care to children in Nepal and Afghanistan.