San Francisco Chronicle

Attack kills 10 from antiland mine charity

- By Najim Rahim and Mike Ives Najim Rahim and Mike Ives are New York Times writers.

KABUL — At least 10 people were killed and 16 others wounded in an armed attack on staff members of a BritishAme­rican charity in Afghanista­n that has been clearing land mines in the country for decades, officials said Wednesday.

The Islamic State claimed responsibi­lity for the attack, according to the SITE Intelligen­ce Group, which monitors announceme­nts by the terrorist organizati­on. The assault occurred late Tuesday at a demining camp in the northeaste­rn province of Baghlan and targeted employees of the charity, the HALO Trust.

Tariq Arian, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said that the victims were all Afghan citizens and that the wounded had been transferre­d to hospitals.

The HALO Trust, a British charity with a U.S. affiliate registered in Washington, said in a statement Wednesday that an “unknown armed group” entered the demining camp at 9:50 p.m. Tuesday and opened fire on about 110 men from local communitie­s who had been working in nearby minefields.

“We strongly condemn the attack on our staff, who were carrying out humanitari­an work to save lives,” it said.

Jawid Mazlomyar, 30, who has worked with HALO for more than a decade, said the armed attackers had rounded up those in the demining camp.

Consistent with previous attacks by the Islamic State in Afghanista­n, the attackers asked who among those in the camp were Hazaras, a persecuted, largely Shiite minority in the country.

“We told them that we are Muslim and every day we are praying,” Mazlomyar said. “They asked again, and we responded that there is no Hazara and we all are Muslims. At that time, they started firing.”

Arian, the spokesman, initially blamed the Taliban for the attack.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, denied any involvemen­t and said that the area where the “horrifying” attack had taken place was not under the militant group’s control.

In civilian attacks such as Tuesday’s, Afghan government officials often opt to blame the Taliban regardless of the killers’ possible affiliatio­n with other armed groups. The move is strategic: to highlight the government’s continuing struggle against the insurgents as the United States and internatio­nal forces leave Afghanista­n in the coming weeks, and to spotlight the Taliban’s bloody tactics.

Ramiz Alakbarov, the U.N. secretaryg­eneral’s deputy special representa­tive for Afghanista­n, called for an investigat­ion into the attack and described it as “heinous.”

 ?? Mehrab Ibrahimi / Associated Press ?? Coffins of the 10 victims are placed side by side at a hospital in Baghlan province, Afghanista­n. The staff members of the nonprofit HALO Trust were attacked by Islamic State gunmen.
Mehrab Ibrahimi / Associated Press Coffins of the 10 victims are placed side by side at a hospital in Baghlan province, Afghanista­n. The staff members of the nonprofit HALO Trust were attacked by Islamic State gunmen.

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