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9 local employees of Czech NGO killed in Balkh

AT-KABUL: Nine Afghan employees of a Czech aid organization, People In Need, were killed when suspected Taliban fighters attacked their guesthouse in northern Balkh province, said provincial officials today.

No group has claimed responsibility for the killings in the relatively tranquil Balkh province, but provincial officials blamed militants for the incident.

Two security guards were shot dead in first minutes of a gunfight by militants, who then entered into compound and killed seven aid workers including a woman, the deputy provincial police chief, Abdul Razaq Qaderi, said. He blamed that the Taliban were behind the attack.

The victims were employees of People in Need (PIN), a Czech organization that has been active in Afghanistan since 2001, delivering humanitarian aid to remote communities in the east and north of the country.

The NGO confirmed killing of its nine employees in northern Afghanistan on its official Twitter account.

Employees of the international aid organizations have increasingly come under attacks in Afghanistan despite the Taliban espousing an official policy that rejects attacks on humanitarian workers.

The latest attack comes just weeks after 14 people, mostly foreigners, were killed in a Taliban attack on a guesthouse in downtown Kabul, popular with international aid workers.

Five of them were Afghan employees of aid organizations including Action Aid and the Aga Khan Foundation.

In April, the bullet-ridden bodies of five Afghan workers for Save the Children were found after they were abducted by armed gunmen in the strife-torn southern province of Uruzgan.

Last year a total of 57 aid workers were killed in Afghanistan, according to United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).

Amnesty International in a press release also condemned the attack on aid workers and called it as an urgent reminder of the need for authorities to increase protection for aid workers in Afghanistan.

Horia Mosadiq, a researcher at the Amnesty International, said that being an aid worker in Afghanistan is an extremely risky business. She said the latest attack must be urgently investigated and those responsible should be brought to justice. “Anything less will send the message that aid workers are a fair target,” she said.

President, Ashraf Ghani, while offering his heartfelt condolences to the families of victims, condemned the attack in strongest possible terms and called the perpetrators enemies of progress and development of Afghanistan.

President directed Ministry of Interior to investigate the incident and bring the attackers to justice.

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