On Wednesday this week, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) suspended operations in Afghanistan following an attack on eight ICRC aid workers earlier in the week. An ICRC convoy was ambushed and six ICRC employees have been killed while two are still missing.
The aid workers, carrying livestock and supplies, were delivering emergency relief to a remote northern region of Afghanistan hit by heavy snow storms. The ICRC team included three drivers and five field officers. They were driving in a clearly marked ICRC vehicle. Six employees were killed and two are missing. A search is under way to find the two missing workers. The bodies of the six employees show multiple close-range gunshot wounds.
At present the ICRC are still unsure who is responsible for the attack. A Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, stated that his group was not involved in the attack. Islamic State are known to be active in the area and it is believed that Islamic State is responsible for the attack. The head of the ICRC has called it the worse attack against the organisation in 20 years.
Operations in Afghanistan have been put on hold by the ICRC for at least a week out of respect for the families of the victims. Humanitarian efforts in the region will also be suspended until the ICRC can ascertain the reason for the attack. The ICRC are hopeful that they will be able to resume operation in Afghanistan in the future.
Afghanistan is the ICRC’s fourth largest humanitarian program in the world. The ICRC have been delivering uninterrupted aid to the region throughout the last 30 years. However the region has become more and more dangerous for ICRC aid workers. This is not the first attack on the ICRC in this region. In December last year an ICRC employee was kidnapped by gunman and released one month later.
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