Kabul: Authorities were seeking on Sunday to
identify eight foreign medics gunned down in a remote Afghan
forest in an attack claimed by the Taliban which said they
were executed as "Christian missionaries".
The bullet-riddled bodies of five men, all Americans, and
three women, an American, a German and a Briton, were found in
the northeastern province of Badakhshan on Friday, according
to the provincial police chief.
Two Afghans were also killed in the attack but two
They were part of a 12-member team of volunteer medics
returning from a medical camp in neighbouring Nuristan
province, said Dirk Frans, director of the Kabul-based
International Assistance Mission (IAM).
Badakhshan provincial police chief Aqa Noor Kintoz said
the group had been lined up and shot in dense forest,
according to the testimony of one of the Afghan survivors.
"They were confronted by a group of armed men who lined
them up and shot them. Their money and belongings were all
stolen," said Kintoz.
Despite the Taliban claim, Frans said police had told him
that robbery was the likely motive for the killings.
He said the group had been in a four-wheel-drive vehicle,
avoiding a dangerous path through Nuristan by driving through
Badakhshan, where there have been few insurgent attacks.
"They had no guns and no security because we come at the
communities` invitation and they take care of us," Frans said.
Northeast Afghanistan has been regarded as largely free
of the Taliban-led insurgency troubling other parts of the
Kintoz said local villagers had warned the group not to
enter the forested area, but they had insisted they would be
safe because they were doctors, according to testimony from
the Afghan survivor named Saifullah.
He said that according to Saifullah`s testimony he had
escaped death by reading verses of the Koran, prompting the
men to realise he was a Muslim and release him in neighbouring
Frans said the last communication with the group was on
"There has never been any threats against us. If there
were threats, we would not have gone," he said, adding that
IAM would continue its activities.
"We have been working under the king, the communists and
the Taliban, and they know what we do," he said.
The Taliban, the hardline Islamist militia waging a near
nine-year insurgency against the Afghan government and US-led
forces, claimed responsibility for the killings.