Attack kills 9 Afghans work­ing for Czech char­ity

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY LYNNE O’DON­NELL

Mil­i­tants at­tacked a re­mote guest­house and killed nine Afghans work­ing for a Czech char­ity on Tues­day, as a new re­port by Brown Uni­ver­sity warned that al­most 100,000 peo­ple have been killed in Afghanistan since the 2001 U.S.led in­va­sion over­threw the Tal­iban regime and sparked an in­sur­gency.

Tues­day’s attack took place in the Zari dis­trict of north­ern Balkh prov­ince at 2 a.m., when gun­men burst into the work­ers’ rooms as they slept, said Ab­dul Bas­set Ayni, direc­tor of the prov­ince’s ru­ral devel­op­ment depart­ment.

Nine peo­ple, in­clud­ing a woman, who were work­ing on re­con­struc­tion projects were shot dead. The nine were em­ployed by a Czech or­ga­ni­za­tion called Peo­ple in Need, and in­cluded five project staff, two guards and two driv­ers, the char­ity’s coun­try direc­tor Ross Hol­lis­ter told The As­so­ci­ated Press.

Hol­lis­ter said the staff were work­ing on in­fra­struc­ture projects for the Afghan gov­ern­ment’s Na­tional Sol­i­dar­ity Pro­gram, which over­sees ru­ral devel­op­ment projects across the coun­try.

“They were build­ing schools, hos­pi­tals, wa­ter projects,” Hol­lis­ter said. Peo­ple in Need has been in Afghanistan for 12 years, he said, and has projects in all 104 of Zari’s vil­lages.

All the dead were Afghan na­tion­als, Ayni said, adding that an in­ves­ti­ga­tion team had been sent to the area. The mo­ti­va­tion and per­pe­tra­tors were still un­known and no group im­me­di­ately claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the attack.

Balkh has re­cently been be­set by in­sur­gent ac­tiv­ity and a spike in vi­o­lence since the Tal­iban launched its warm-weather of­fen­sive in late April.

Guest­houses fa­vored by for­eign­ers have been tar­geted in the cap­i­tal, Kabul, by Tal­iban mil­i­tants in re­cent weeks. Four­teen peo­ple were killed at the Park Palace Ho­tel in mid-May, in­clud­ing nine for­eign­ers. The Tal­iban have said that for­eign in­stal­la­tions are among their pri­or­ity tar­gets as the 13-year-old war es­ca­lates across the coun­try.

A re­vi­tal­ized in­sur­gency ap­pears to be us­ing a new strat­egy of send­ing much larger num­bers of men on the bat­tle­field to fight and hold ter­ri­tory, and has, ac­cord­ing to Afghan of­fi­cials, linked up with other anti-gov­ern­ment and ex­trem­ist groups, in­clud­ing the Is­lamic Move­ment of Uzbek­istan and the East Turkestan In­de­pen­dence Move­ment.

“It is get­ting worse,”

Mean­while, the Brown Uni­ver­sity study — called Costs of War and pro­duced by the uni­ver­sity’s Wat­son In­sti­tute for In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies — looked at war-re­lated deaths, in­juries and dis­place­ment in Afghanistan and Pak­istan from 2001 to last year, when in­ter­na­tional com­bat troops left Afghanistan.

Along with those killed, it said that an­other 100,000 peo­ple had been wounded in Afghanistan. For both coun­tries, civil­ian and mil­i­tary deaths to­tal al­most 149,000 peo­ple killed, with 162,000 se­ri­ously wounded, ac­cord­ing to the re­port’s au­thor, Neta Craw­ford.

Not­ing a rise in an­nual fig­ures for those killed and wounded in re­cent years, she said the fig­ures show the war in Afghanistan is not end­ing. “It is get­ting worse,” Craw­ford said. The study is also backed by U.N. fig­ures, which show that in Afghani- stan, civil­ian ca­su­al­ties rose 16 per­cent in the first four months of 2015, with 974 peo­ple killed and a fur­ther 1,963 wounded.

While mil­i­tary deaths are logged with pre­ci­sion, Craw­ford said, civil­ian fig­ures are dif­fi­cult to source. The re­port’s fig­ures are based on statis­tics from the United Na­tions As­sis­tance Mission in Afghanistan, as well as other sources, she said.

Most civil­ian deaths hap­pened af­ter 2007, with more than 17,700 civil­ian deaths recorded by UNAMA be­tween 2009 and 2014. Most civil­ians were killed by mil­i­tants, she said.

Break­ing the fig­ures down, the re­port found that 26,270 Afghan civil­ians have been killed and 29,900 wounded as a di­rect con­se­quence of the war.

A down­ward trend in civil­ian deaths that be­gan in 2008 had reversed, she said, and last year it be­came clear that in­sur­gents were not dis­tin­guish­ing be­tween civil­ian and com­bat­ants. Deaths that are im­pos­si­ble to at­tribute have also be­gun to rise. As a con­se­quence, “the health care sys­tem re­mains bur­dened by war and stressed due to the de­struc­tion of in­fra­struc­ture and the in­abil­ity to rebuild in some re­gions,” Craw­ford said.

An on­go­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis has been ex­ac­er­bated by at­tacks on hu­man­i­tar­ian work­ers by mil­i­tants, she said in the re­port.

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