After 3 workers killed, aid group Oxfam suspends operations in northeastern Afghanistan

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

3 Oxfam workers killed in northeastern Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan — Aid group Oxfam has suspended operations in an increasingly dangerous northeastern Afghan province after two of its staff members and a community volunteer were killed there last week, the aid agency said.

A deputy provincial governor said Wednesday that the three Afghans died on Saturday when their vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb in Badakhshan, where a group of suspected insurgents last month murdered 10 aid workers, including six Americans, two Afghans, one German and a Briton.

The province had been largely free from insurgent attacks but has in recent months seen rising violence blamed on Taliban units who have moved into the area as part of a strategy of expanding their presence away from their traditional strongholds in the south and along the mountainous border with Pakistan.

Deputy governor, Shamsul Rahman, said Taliban insurgents were likely behind Saturday’s attack in Shahri Buzurg district, about 185 miles (300 kilometers) northeast of Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul.

“We have temporarily suspended operations in Badakhshan and are reviewing all security measures and protocols. At present, Oxfam has no plans to discontinue its work in Afghanistan,” the Britain-based group said in a statement issued late Tuesday.

Spokesmen for Oxfam were not immediately available for comment on Wednesday.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the Aug. 5 ambush killings of the 10 members of the International Assistance Mission who had spent two weeks giving vision and other medical care to impoverished villagers in neighboring Nuristan province. The insurgents said the aid workers had been preaching Christianity to villagers, although no evidence has surfaced to support the accusation.

Al-Qaida-linked foreign fighters and the Hizb-i-Islami group under the leadership of warlord and former Afghan Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar also operate in the area.

Oxfam staffs numerous offices around Afghanistan overseeing projects ranging from distributing livestock, to running schools, providing clean water and advocating for women’s rights.

(This version CORRECTS that two Afghans, not three, were killed in earlier attack.)

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