The Taliban has said it shot dead eight foreign
aid workers in a remote northern region of Afghanistan, accusing them of
being "Christian missionaries".
"Yesterday at around 8am, one of
our patrols confronted a group of foreigners. They were Christian
missionaries and we killed them all," Zabihulla Mujahed, a spokesman for
the Taliban movement, said on Saturday.
"They were carrying Persian language bibles, a satellite-tracking device and maps," he said.
The bullet-riddled bodies of five men, all Americans, and three
women, an American, a German and a Briton, were found in
the northeastern province of Badakhshan on Friday, the provincial
police chief said.
Mujahed said the group was lost and the victims were killed as they tried to escape.
Frans, the director of the the International Assistance Mission
charity, told The Associated Press news that the group was returning to
Kabul from an eye facility in Nuristan province when they were killed.
tragedy negatively impacts our ability to continue serving the Afghan
people as IAM has been doing since 1966," a statement released by the
nonprofit Christian organisation which provides healthcare services
"We hope it will not stop our work that benefits over a quarter of a million Afghans each year."
IAM says it provides the majority of eye care available to Afghans, running eye hospitals in Kabul, Herat, Mazar and Kandahar.
Jazeera's James Bays, reporting from Kabul, said the area where the
bodies were found was not considered one of the more dangerous places in
Afghanistan, and that some of the workers had extensive experience with
the country and its languages.
That means the killings are even likelier to make many of the
non-govermental organisation working in the country reassess their
operations, Bays said.
"I am sure it will limit some operations that have been benefitting the people of Afghanistan," he said.
General Agha Noor Kemtuz, the
provincial police chief, said a third Afghan man, who had been
travelling with the group, survived.
"He told me he was shouting and reciting the holy Quran and saying 'I am Muslim. Don't kill me'," Kemtuz said.
Kemtuz said the survivor told him that the group, which had been
travelling in Panjshir, Nuristan and Badakhshan provinces, were
surrounded by armed men and then attacked.
He speculated that robbery could have been a motive in the killings in the remote Kuran Wa Munjan district.
"We couldn't find any passports or anything," he said. "Nothing was left behind."
It was unclear what the group had been doing in the forested area away from main routes through the province.
their travel we warned them not to tour near jungles in Nuristan but
they said they were doctors and no one was going to hurt them," Kemtuz