Slain Aid Workers' Agency Says it Will Stay in Afghanistan

International Assistance Mission (IAM), the agency representing eight medical aid workers who were shot to death in Afghanistan last week, says it has no intentions of leaving the hostile country despite the massive loss.

"As things stand right now, IAM is not thinking of withdrawing from Afghanistan," said agency director Dirk Frans during a press conference on Monday. "Our NGO has worked here for well over four decades. And we remember that there were times when security was much worse than it is now."

Frans' group, which runs an eye care clinic, has worked in Afghanistan since 1966, and is the longest serving non-governmental organization in the country.

The group had lasted under hostile regimes, including the Taliban, without losing a single member until last week's massacre, which occurred while a team was returning to Kabul after working in the remote northwest region of Nuristan.

Among those killed were some of the organization's most experienced doctors, including Americans Tom Little and his assistant Dan Terry, who were both in their sixties and going on nearly 40 years of service in the country.

Frans called Little "irreplaceable" and the "driving force" behind many of the country's achievements in eye care.

Others killed were Americans Cheryl Beckett, Brian Carderelli, Dr. Tom Grams, and Glenn Lapp, German Daniela Beyer, Briton Karen Woo, and Afghans Mahram Ali and Jawed.

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

Another team member, Said Yasin, had parted ways with the group before the ambush.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, who claimed responsibility for the attacks, said that the killings were done on the grounds that the aid workers were proselytizing and carrying Bibles translated into a native Afghan language – both illegal activities in the country.

"They were Christian missionaries and we killed them all," Mujahid told AFP.

IAM has denied the claims, saying that while they are a Christian group, they follow strict guidelines regarding their workers sharing their faith.

"Our faith motivates and inspires us - but we do not proselytize," Frans said. "We abide by the laws of Afghanistan."

Several Christian groups have come out in support of IAM, expressing their condolences and calling on the Afghan government to take better control over the violence in the region.

"We keep the families of the aid workers, their colleagues, and the brave, generous work of IAM in our prayers. Friends such as these, committed to the world's poor and vulnerable, help us live out our commitment to Courageous Compassion," reads a statement from Week of Compassion, a humanitarian outreach of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

The group added that the slain workers "exemplify the best of the Church," reaching out in times of "senseless violence, natural disaster, and hopelessness."

Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe, CEO of the World Evangelical Alliance, noted: "These senseless killings of humanitarian workers are a great atrocity and will significantly impact the delivery of aid to thousands of poor people."

"Once again the most needy in society are impacted by pointless violence," he added.

U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has also denounced the killings, calling them a "despicable act of wanton violence."

"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.

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