Friday, September 17

Gunmen kill 10 mine clearance workers in Afghanistan | Afghanistan

Gunmen killed 10 men working for the Halo Trust in northern Afghanistan, in a nightly assault that the director of the mine-clearance charity described as the worst the organization had ever endured.

The attackers stormed a Halo Trust camp in Baghlan province shortly before 10 p.m. Tuesday, where some 110 men, mostly from local communities, were resting after a day’s work cleaning up old explosives.

James Cowan, executive director of the charity, described to the BBC how the killers went “from bed to bed, murdering in cold blood.” He said the “horrible incident” was the worst attack in the history of the Halo Trust, which was founded in 1988 in Kabul.

The government blamed the Taliban, but the group denied any role, and Cowan said his fighters helped end the massacre. “In fact, the local Taliban came to our aid and scared the assailants,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today program.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid described the murdered men as martyrs, saying: “We condemn the attacks on the defenseless and consider them brutality.”

Cowan said Halo would continue to work in Afghanistan, where it has around 3,000 employees and where there is still an urgent need for work to clear the mines. The decades since 1988 have seen few breakouts from the war, although the parties to the changing conflict changed.

Extensions of the camp are still contaminated by unmapped explosives that frequently kill and maim people who come across them, including children.

“This is a horrible incident, the worst in the history of the Halo Trust. It is very sad, but we are here for Afghanistan. We were in Afghanistan many years before 9/11 and we will be there many years after the international withdrawal, “he said.

Violence has increased in Afghanistan this year, as the United States withdraws its troops before the fall deadline to leave the country entirely.

Biden has vowed to end America’s longest war, but for Afghans the decision to make a military exit is likely to mean more bloodshed rather than less.

Peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, launched as part of the withdrawal pact that Washington established with the militants, are stalled.

Across Afghanistan, the Taliban have seized land in rural areas and series of targeted killings have terrorized activists, journalists and intellectuals in cities.

There have also been cruel sectarian attacks, including a recent assault on a high school in the capital that killed dozens of young women and girls. The students came from the surrounding Hazara community, an ethnic minority who are mostly Shiite Muslims and have been repeatedly targeted by Isis in Afghanistan.

In a video shared by police in Baghlan, a survivor of the attack said gunmen at the camp had asked if any of the men there were Hazara before they opened fire. reported the BBC.

“Five to six armed men came; they took us to a room, ”the survivor quoted the BBC as saying. “First they took all our money and cell phones, and then they asked who our leader was. They asked, “Are there any Hazara here among you?” We told them, ‘We don’t have any Hazara here.’

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