Militants seek to blacken Afghanistan's image with attacks on charities: officials

By Ziar


Afghan bystanders gather outside the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Orthopaedic Centre in Kabul February 9. The flag flies at half-staff to commemorate six ICRC employees whom gunmen killed in northern Afghanistan February 8. [Shah Marai/AFP]

KABUL -- More than a month later, two International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) staffers kidnapped in northern Afghanistan February 8 are still missing.

The staffers' convoy came under fire in Jawzjan Province February 8 when they were trying to deliver supplies to a snowbound area. Six Red Cross staffers were killed. The gunmen, suspected of being with "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL), kidnapped the surviving two.

A February 18 appeal by the Red Cross for their release has fallen on deaf ears.

"We ... request the immediate, safe and unconditional release of our colleagues," said Monica Zanarelli, the ICRC chief in Afghanistan, in that statement.

The Red Cross, in the same statement, announced the suspension of its operations in Afghanistan.

Trying to defame an entire country

ISIL and other militant groups want to destroy Afghanistan's image by targeting international charities, officials told Salaam Times.

"Terrorists want the world to think that Afghanistan is a country of barbarism and fear," Public Health Ministry spokeswoman Kanishka Turkistani told Salaam Times. "They want to disrupt aid delivery by charities."

"They're trying to kill innocent workers by any means," she added.

Such destructive activities in the past have not halted charities' work in Afghanistan, she said.

However, Tahir Hashmi, a former Kabul University political scientist, warned of a likely reduction of charity work in Afghanistan.

"I'm sure that these acts will cause a loss of foreign aid to Afghanistan," he told Salaam Times. "It's natural for these foundations to go to countries that have security and no extremism."

Terrorists have no regard for calls to avoid "killing civilians or attacking schools and welfare organisations", he said.

Shock and outrage

Afghans and the Red Cross are reacting with anger to the murder and abduction of aid workers who were trying to help snowbound Afghans.

"We severely denounce this attack," Ramin Ayaz, the Red Cross spokesperson in Afghanistan, told Salaam Times. "We're searching hard for the culprits and their purpose."

The forced suspension of Red Cross work in Afghanistan "has effects on civilians", he said.

Attacking the Red Cross "is far from humanity and dignity", Ministry of Defence spokesman Gen. Dawlat Waziri told Salaam Times, adding, "Our intelligence and police forces are busy on the case."

Mujtaba Akrami, a political-science student at a Kabul university, expressed shock at the attack on a charity that aids the needy.

The slayings and abductions "show that the militants have no principles", he told Salaam Times. "They kill innocent aid workers and paint a picture of a savage and frightening Afghanistan to foreigners."

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