06/09/2021, 14.33
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Ten mine clearance workers killed in Baghlan attack

The dead worked for Halo Trust, a non-profit organisation. Afghan officials immediately blamed the Taliban, who denied the charge. As international forces withdraw, the level of violence is increasing in the country.

Kabul (AsiaNews/Agencies) – At least 10 mine clearance workers employed by the Halo Trust were killed and more than a dozen were injured in an attack in the northern province of Baghlan.

No one claimed responsibility for the incident, but Afghan authorities blamed the Taliban, who immediately rejected the accusation. No one has so far claimed responsibility.

Halo Trust CEO James Cowan told the BBC  that in fact “the local Taliban … came to our aid and scared the assailants off.”  

The attack took place last night but was reported to the media this morning by an Afghan security forces official.

“Around 110 men, from local communities in northern Afghanistan, were in the camp having finished their work on nearby minefields,” Halo Trust said in a statement.

“We strongly condemn the attack on our staff, who were carrying out humanitarian work to save lives,” it added.

The workers were killed by masked men who burst into organisation’s compound at around 9.50 pm (local time).

Interior Ministry spokesman Tareq Arian told reporters that “the Taliban entered a compound of a mine-clearing agency... and started shooting everyone”.

However, the Taliban issued a swift denial. “We condemn attacks on the defenceless and view it as brutality,” the militant group’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tweeted. “We have normal relations with NGOs. Our Mujahideen will never carry out such brutal attacks.”

In a clip police in Baghlan shared with reporters, a survivor of the attack said the gunmen asked if any of them were from the Hazara minority community before opening fire.

“Five to six armed men came, they took us to a room,” he said. “First, they took all our money and mobile phones, and then they asked who our leader was. They asked, ‘Is any Hazara here among you?’ We told them, ‘We don’t have any Hazara here.’“

Hazaras have faced long-term discrimination and persecution, primarily because of their Shia faith. In recent years, they have faced abductions and killings at the hands of both the Islamic State group and the Taliban.

Violence has increased across the country since the United States announced plans to withdraw all its troops by 11 September.

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