08/07/2010, 00.00
AFGHANISTAN

Badakhshan, Taliban kill eight people for being “Christian missionaries”

The ten men belonged to the International Assistance Mission (IAM), a Christian charitable organization based in Switzerland. According to the Taliban they were in possession of Bibles translated into Dari, the local language. Zabihullah Mujahid, Taliban spokesman: "They were Christian missionaries and we killed them all." The IAM denies it is involved in proselytizing.

Kabul (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Eight foreigners and two Afghans of the International Assistance Mission (IAM), a Christian charitable organization providing aid and medical assistance to the Afghan people were killed by the Taliban in the district of Kuran wa Munjan in the region of Badakhshan , northeast Afghanistan. Gen Kemtuz, one of three Afghan translators, is the only survivor. The organisation in question is Swiss based International Assistance Mission, which offers medical assistance.

Dirk Frans, IAM Executive Director said that doctors – all opticians -  were returning to Kabul from the region of Nuristan, after a two and a half visit, through Badakhshan, considered the safest route. The IAM lost contact with the doctors vehicles on Wednesday and it is presumed they were attacked between Wednesday and Thursday.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the murders through spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid who claimed that the doctors were in possession of Bibles translated into Dari, the local language. "Yesterday - he said - " one of our patrols confronted a group of foreigners. They were Christian missionaries and we killed them all".  He added that they were “American spies” and that they were looking for information on extremist strongholds.

Dirk Frans has strongly denied this claim: "We have been working in Afghanistan since 1966. They know that we are a Christian institution, but we certainly do not distribute Bibles”.  He added that all of the victims were doctors and that IAM only provides medical assistance.

The names of the eight victims are already known but have not yet been made public. They include six Americans, a Briton and a German. The bodies have been transferred to Kabul. The group's leaders, said Frans, had worked in Afghanistan for decades.

The region of Badakhshan, bordering Tajikistan, is one of the few regions of Afghanistan that the U.S. has stolen control of from the Taliban after the 2001 invasion. The region is considered safe, although the local population has shown signs of revolt in recent times.

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