ISIS Militants Kill 6 Red Cross Workers in Afghanistan

Afghans at a hospital in Mazar-i-Sharif on Wednesday unloaded the coffin of an employee of the International Committee of the Red Cross who was killed by gunmen in Jowzjan Province. (Reuters)

Six employees of the International Committee of the Red Cross were killed and two others were missing on Wednesday after an attack in northern Afghanistan that officials attributed to local affiliates of the Islamic State.

“This is a despicable act. Nothing can justify the murder of our colleagues and dear friends,” Monica Zanarelli, the head of the Red Cross delegation in Afghanistan, said. “At this point, it’s premature for us to determine the impact of this appalling incident on our operations in Afghanistan.”

The Taliban, who still inflict the largest share of violence in a 15-year war that has escalated in recent years, quickly denied that they were behind the attack.

The Red Cross has a 30-year history of helping war victims in Afghanistan, providing crucial medical aid to areas near the battlefield, among other things. The insurgency also relies on Red Cross volunteers to retrieve the bodies of its dead in large parts of the country and to help families of its detainees communicate with them in prison.

But in a recent report, the Red Cross expressed concerns about “the shrinking access of humanitarian aid workers in numerous parts of the country” because of “the intensification of conflict-related violence.”

The governor of Jowzjan Province, Lutfullah Azizi, blamed affiliates of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, for the attack.

Mr. Azizi said that the Red Cross had begun a mission to distribute livestock material in the Qush Tepah area of Jowzjan Province, where the attack happened, but that its work was paused by recent avalanches. When workers went to resume giving out aid, they were targeted.

“They were a team of eight people in three vehicles, including three drivers and five staff,” Mr. Azizi said. “Islamic State attacked the convoy, killed the three drivers and three staff members on the spot and took two staff members with them.”

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SOURCE: NY Times, Mujib Mashal