KABUL, Afghanistan -- Six Afghan men working for a private, French-run literacy group were ambushed and killed Wednesday by what a local official said were Taliban insurgents.
The attack was noteworthy because it targeted a type of independent relief agency not routinely attacked by the Taliban, which have regularly killed Afghans working for or on behalf of the U.S.-backed government in Kabul.
The six victims, who worked for the French aid group ACTED, were stopped at a checkpoint early Wednesday by gunmen in the remote northwestern Afghanistan province of Faryab. They were ambushed a short time later, about 9 a.m., by insurgents who fired into their vehicle, according to Abdul Satar Barez, the provincial deputy governor.
The attack took place less than four miles from the provincial capital, Maimana. One worker was wounded but survived. The car was set afire by the gunmen.
Barez called the attackers “enemies of the people of Afghanistan,” a reference normally applied to the Taliban by government officials.
It was the second attack in two days on workers for relief agencies in Afghanistan. Three men working on a village development project in Uruzgan province were killed by an explosion Tuesday.
The six men killed in Faryab on Wednesday worked for ACTED on a behalf of the Afghan Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development under financing from international donors. ACTED, the Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development, has been working in Afghanistan for 20 years and in Faryab for 10 years.
“We strongly condemn this attack, which is being investigated to determine the precise circumstances of this tragedy,” ACTED said in a statement released in Paris. “ACTED is determined to shed light on this shocking event.”
Last year, the Taliban issued a statement to reporters promising not to target legitimate aid workers whose efforts improve the lives of Afghans and do not directly support international military forces. However, Afghan police and government officials have blamed the insurgents for several subsequent attacks on aid workers.
“I was shocked and saddened by this despicable, merciless killing of Afghan civilian workers, as they were serving the most needy people in rural villages,” Wais Ahmad Barmak, Afghanistan’s rural development minister, said in a statement in Kabul.
He added that the attack had “no justification – and is unacceptable under any terms and laws.”
Baktash is a special correspondent.