Six American Aid Workers Among Dead in Afghanistan Shootings

Six Americans, two Afghans, one Briton and one German, all part of a non-profit medical team, have been identified as those killed last Friday by gunmen in an ambush in Afghanistan.

According to police reports, the workers had been returning from the remote regions of the Badakhshan Province in northeast Afghanistan when several gunmen forced them into the forest, robbed them, and shot them to death.

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack and said that the workers were proselytizing and carrying Bibles with them, both of which are illegal activities in the country.

Others suspect that the robbery was the main motive, including the director for the workers' agency, who noted that the idea that the group was proselytizing is "out of the question."

"That would be against the laws of this country and the rules of our organization," Dirk Frans, director of the International Assistance Mission (IAM), told the New York Times. "Although we are a Christian-supported charity, we would absolutely not proselytize."

The group's driver, meanwhile, escaped unharmed after begging for his life and proving to the shooters that he was a Muslim by reciting verses from the Koran.

The massacre is the largest attack on aid workers in the region in years and has heightened concerns of decreasing security for non-profit workers in the area.

Among those killed were veteran eye-doctor Tom Little, who has been serving in Afghanistan since 1976, and his assistant, Dan Terry, both of whom were in their sixties.

"Both men were inspirational, deeply committed to Afghanistan and to their work, serving, as they saw it, the country's poor," said Kate Clark of the Afghanistan Anaylsts Network in an obituary.

American Glenn D. Lapp, a member of the Mennonite Central Committee, and Briton Karen Woo, who was pledged to be married later this month, were also among the slain.

U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton called the killings a "despicable act of wanton violence," adding that she was "heartbroken by the loss of these heroic, generous people."

"The murdered medical aid workers, as well as the volunteers from many nations and the international coalition working to establish stability in Afghanistan, represent exactly what the Taliban stands against: a future of peace, freedom, opportunity, and openness, where all Afghans can live and work together in harmony, free from terror," Clinton said in a statement.

U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl W. Eikenberry issued a message to the Afghan people saying that the murders show the "absolute disregard that terrorist-inspired Taliban and other insurgents have for your health, have for your security and have for your opportunity."

"The United States of America will continue standing with our Afghan partners," Eikenberry wrote on Sunday. "We are with you, working towards the day that you are no longer subject to the threat, the violence and the intimidation of such twisted terrorist groups."

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