Thursday, July 24, 2014

Afghanistan: Two Finnish Aid Workers Shot, Killed by Gunmen on Motorcycle in Herat

According to AP journalists in Helsinki, Copenhagen and Kabul, gunmen riding tandem on a motorcycle opened fire and killed two Finnish female aid workers in the western town of Herat on Thursday (July 24), the latest in a series of attacks on foreigners that has rattled aid workers, contractors and journalists.

The women were riding in a taxi when they were killed, said Sami Wafa, the chief of staff of the Herat governor. Herat police spokesman Raouf Ahmadi said the taxi driver has been arrested. 

Finland's Foreign Ministry confirmed that two Finnish citizens died in Afghanistan on Thursday. Spokesman Keijo Norvanto said the two worked for the International Assistance Mission, an aid group which has been operating in Afghanistan since 1966. IAM could not be reached for comment.

"We are faced with a great tragedy," Finland's Prime Minister Alexander Stubb said in a statement. "Finland requires that a thorough investigation be conducted to bring those guilty to justice. Finland must also reassess the security situation in Afghanistan."

The Ministry said it has previously funded IAM's operations and that the aid organization has also received funding from Norway and Sweden.

Militants carry out near-daily attacks in Afghanistan, usually targeting security forces, which have struggled to secure the country as foreign troops have been gradually withdrawn. Most foreign combat forces are due to exit Afghanistan by the end of 2014. 

COMMENT: As our readers will recall, on April 4, a two-person Associated Press team made up of award-winning German photo-journalist Anja Niedringhaus, 48, and Canadian Kathy Gannon, 60, both of whom were shot by an Afghan cop using an AK-47 and left for dead.

Tragically, Anja died instantly, while Kathy was shot multiple times but is recovering.

Kathy Gannon, a Canadian AP correspondent who for many years was AP's Afghanistan bureau chief and currently a special correspondent for the region, was shot and later underwent surgery. She was described as being in stable condition and talking to medical personnel. 

The two shooting victims were traveling Friday in a convoy of election workers delivering ballots from the center of Khost city to the outskirts, in Tani district. The convoy was protected by Afghan security forces. They were in their own car with a translator and an AP freelancer. 

As they were waiting for the convoy to move, a unit commander named Naqibullah walked up to the car, yelled "Allahu Akbar" — God is Great — and opened fire on them in the back seat with his assault rifle, the freelancer said. The assailant then surrendered to the police and was arrested. 

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