Gunmen stormed a camp of a UK-based mine clearance group in Afghanistan, killing 10 local workers. Afghan officials blame the Taliban for the attack, but they deny this.
The NGO HALO Trust said that 10 of its workers were killed and 16 wounded on Tuesday evening when gunmen attacked their camp in Afghanistan’s northeastern Baghlan province. Ariana News cited locals as saying that all the victims were from Baghlan province.
The Baghlan governor’s spokesman, Jawed Basharat, told reporters that the gunmen wore masks during the attack.
Afghanistan Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian claimed militants from the Taliban were behind the attack. He posted what he said were photos of surviving mine-clearers lying on hospital beds.
The Taliban denied targeting the mine clearance team. “We condemn attacks on the defenceless and view it as brutality,” the group’s spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said in a tweet, adding that the militants have “normal relations” with NGOs.
Arian said the Taliban was lying and that its fighters have attacked aid workers and civilians in the past.
The Taliban did claim to have shot down an Afghan military helicopter on Tuesday. However, the country’s defense ministry said the Russian-made M-17 chopper crashed due to technical problems, killing three of its crew and injuring one.
Meanwhile, Afghan translators employed by Australian troops have been placed on a Taliban kill list for working alongside “infidel enemies” over the past 20 years.
The development has re-ignited calls for the Australian government to fast-track visas for about 300 interpreters who fear for their lives.
In one instance, an Afghan interpreter who worked with Australian Defence Force soldiers had a threatening letter signed by a Taliban commander named Spin Talib taped to his front door by “Mujahedeen”, or jihadist fighters.
The letter amounted to a Taliban death sentence on the translator who has already been an assassination target.
“We are honest in our words and we will get you, be it day or night, and you will be punished, and we will reach our goal,” the letter reads. “Await your death very soon.”
The letter reveals that the Taliban has received reports of the translator’s work “for a long time with infidel enemies of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, as an interpreter and a slave”.
Retired admiral Chris Barrie said Australia had a “very serious” obligation to take care of vulnerable translators when military forces were withdrawn later this year.
The prime minister said the government was working urgently to provide protection to Afghan translators who fear for their safety.