Five members of mine-removal team are killed in Afghanistan

KABUL: In one of the bloodiest attacks in months on a nongovernmental organization in Afghanistan, gunmen killed five members of a mine-clearing team and wounded seven more in a relatively peaceful northern province, officials said Monday.

It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack Sunday, but it was a sign of the continuing lawlessness that plagues the country, including shootings, bombings and kidnappings.

The attackers may have been criminals or supporters of the Taliban. Taliban supporters have attacked nongovernmental organizations in the past to try to deter reconstruction efforts, U.S. and Afghan officials said.

Two members of another mine-removal team were killed in a separate shooting Monday in another northern province, said Dan McNorton, a spokesman at the United Nations mission in Afghanistan, which assailed the attacks. He said the shootings took place in a section of northern Afghanistan where the Taliban is not prevalent.

Meanwhile, officials increased the toll of an attack Sunday. Nearly 40 trucks carrying fuel to U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan were destroyed in two bomb blasts on the Pakistani border. About 100 people were wounded, a local official said.
The explosions were caused by two bombs planted in the parking lot of a customs station on the Pakistani side of the Torkham crossing, he said.

The mine removers killed Sunday were from an Afghan organization, Afghan Technical Consultants, that has been clearing mines from the war zones of Afghanistan for nearly 20 years.

Three men riding a motorbike opened fire on the lead vehicle of a four-car convoy in a remote desert area between the provinces of Balkh and Jawzjan, the police in Balkh Province said.

Taliban insurgents could have organized the attack in such a remote area, a police official said. He said aid organizations had been warned to request security from the government when travelling outside district centers.

“Naturally when the enemy thinks that the area is not under secure coverage, they do what they want,” he said.

The attack was a shock because the organization had been working in the region for four years and had not received any threats from the Taliban or others, said Kefayatullah Eblagh, director of Afghan Technical Consultants.

Three of the cars in the convoy managed to escape, but the first car had its tires shot out and then was fired on at point blank range, Eblagh said.

Harsh verdict on Western aid

A report by relief agencies in Afghanistan says the violence there is being exacerbated by Western nations’ failure to deliver promised aid. It also states that 40 percent of the funds that do reach the country return to groups in the West in the form of profits and salaries, Reuters reported from Kabul.

The Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief, an umbrella group for nongovernmental organizations in Afghanistan, writes in the report: “Thus far aid has been insufficient and in many cases wasteful and ineffective.”

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