Afghan official: 9 workers killed in attack

- AP, MAZAR-I-SHARIF, Afghanistan
Afghan official: 9 workers killed in attack

Jun 2, 2015-

Nine people, including a woman, who were working on a reconstruction project in a remote part of northern Afghanistan were shot dead in an attack on their guesthouse in the early hours of Tuesday, an official said.

The attack took place in the Zari district of Balk province at 2 a.m., when gunmen burst into the workers' rooms as they slept, said Abdul Basset Ayni, director of the province's rural development department.

Seven of the dead were workers and the other two were security guards, Interior Ministry spokesman, Sediq Sediqqi, said on his official Twitter feed.

The spokesman for the Balkh chief of police, Shir Jan Durrani, said that the workers were employed by the National Solidarity Program, which oversees rural development projects across the country.

All the dead were Afghan nationals, he said. An investigation team had been sent to the area and the motivation and perpetrators of the attack were still unknown. Durrani said.

Balkh has recently been beset by insurgent activity and a spike in violence since the Taliban launched its warm-weather offensive in late April.

A revitalized insurgency appears to be using a new strategy of sending much larger numbers of men on the battlefield to fight and hold territory, and has, according to Afghan officials, linked up with other anti-government and extremist groups including the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and the East Turkestan Independence Movement.

The deaths in Balkh come as a new report concludes that war in Afghanistan has killed almost 100,000 people, and wounded the same number, since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion overthrew the Taliban regime and sparked an insurgency.

The study, called Costs of War and produced by Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies, looks at war-related deaths, injuries and displacement in Afghanistan and Pakistan from 2001 to last year, when international combat troops left Afghanistan.

Civilian and military deaths in both countries total almost 149,000 people killed, with 162,000 seriously wounded, the report's author, Neta Crawford, found.

Noting a rise in annual figures for killed and wounded in recent years, she said the figures show that the war in Afghanistan is not ending. "It is getting worse," she said.

The U.N. said civilian casualties rose 16 percent in the first four months of 2015, with 974 people killed and a further 1,963 wounded.

While military deaths are logged with precision, Crawford said, civilian figures are difficult to source. The report's figures are based on statistics from the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, as well as other sources, she said.

Most civilian deaths happened after 2007, with more than 17,700 civilian deaths recorded by UNAMA between 2009 and 2014. Most civilians were killed by militants, she said.

Breaking the figures down, the report finds that 26,270 Afghan civilians have been killed and 29,900 injured as a direct consequence of the war.

The overall figure includes civilians, Taliban and other militants, U.S. and allied forces, aid workers and journalists.

A downward trend in civilian deaths that began in 2008 had reversed, she said, and last year it became clear that insurgents were not distinguishing between civilian and combatants. Deaths that are impossible to attribute have also begun to rise.

As a consequence, "the health care system remains burdened by war and stressed due to the destruction of infrastructure and the inability to rebuild in some regions," Crawford said.

An ongoing humanitarian crisis has been exacerbated by attacks on humanitarian workers by militants, she says in the report.

Published: 02-06-2015 14:51

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