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Afghanistan: Brutal attack against aid workers

Briefing notes

Afghanistan: Brutal attack against aid workers

26 September 2003

We were shocked to learn of the brutal attack against aid workers from the Voluntary Association for Rehabilitation of Afghanistan (VARA), which occurred on Wednesday in Grishk district of Hilmand Province. One aid worker, an engineer, was killed and the driver was seriously injured in the incident, while a third individual escaped unhurt.

VARA is one of our partners in Afghanistan, operating several transit centres for returning refugees. The agency also has agricultural projects in the area. Aid workers were apparently targeted in Wednesday's attack, which occurred less than two weeks after four Afghans working with the Danish aid agency DACAAR were murdered in central Afghanistan.

This apparent brutal targeting of aid workers is yet another violation of the traditional umbrella of security that humanitarian agencies have long benefited. In this latest incident, VARA's clearly marked vehicle was burned, but nothing was reportedly stolen. A local staff member with Mercy Corps was killed in August, also in Hilmand Province, in an attack that saw six other Afghans lose their lives. A fatal attack on an expatriate aid worker with the ICRC occurred in the same area earlier in the year.

Following this attack, road missions by humanitarian agencies beyond the provincial capital of Lashka Gha have been suspended.