Taliban militants stormed the office of an Afghan relief organization early Sunday, killing three workers and wounding four police officers in a pre-dawn shootout that highlighted the country’s continuing lack of stability, officials said.
Police said six vehicles carrying about 30 gunmen raced up to the office of the Voluntary Association for the Rehabilitation of Afghanistan in Delaram, a town in southwestern Nimroz province, early Sunday.
“A cook, a night watchman and another employee were asleep in the first room,” Najamuddin Mojaddedi, the group’s regional head, told The Associated Press. “The Taliban shot them dead.”
Another watchman was missing, Mojaddedi said.
“The Taliban are just killing innocent people trying to help their country,” Mojaddedi said. “I don’t understand why they do this.”
The attack and the recently resolved kidnappings of three U.N. staffers highlight the dangers the country still faces despite landmark elections designed to bring political stability three years after the Taliban’s ouster.
Security forces who rushed to the scene Sunday fought the gunmen for about an hour. Four police officers were injured before the militants withdrew, deputy police chief Mohammed Rassoul said.
It was unclear if the attackers suffered any casualties.
'Occupied our Islamic country'
A spokesman for the former ruling militia said it carried out the attack and had executed a fourth man, but claimed it targeted only a police checkpoint. It was impossible to verify his claim.
Mullah Abdul Hakim Latifi, a man who claims to speak for the Taliban, insisted the attack was against a government checkpoint and that all the victims were soldiers. He said the missing man had been executed.
Latifi also said Taliban militants detonated the bomb which slightly injured three German soldiers in northern Afghanistan on Friday.
“We will continue to attack the United States and its allies, because they have occupied our Islamic country,” he said.
Sunday’s attack and the three fatalities were the first for aid workers in Afghanistan since Aug. 3, when two Afghans working for the German Malteser agency died in a hail of gunfire in southeastern Paktia province.
More than 40 relief and reconstruction workers have died this year, restricting the flow of international aid to the impoverished south and east, where the militants are strongest.
Boy shot dead
Mojaddedi said his group would decide whether to pull out of the region, where it has worked for 14 years on agricultural projects.
In Delaram, it distributes seeds on behalf of the U.N. World Food Program and builds schools and wells with the help of Dutch and Italian relief groups.
Also Sunday, security guards in eastern Afghanistan opened fire on a crowd enraged by the U.S. military’s detention of a woman said to be married to a man said to have links with al-Qaida. A 12-year-old boy was shot dead and a man was injured, officials said.
More than 1,000 people blocked the main road from Jalalabad to the Pakistani border, police and witnesses said. They bore down on the camp of a Pakistani construction company repairing the highway. The guards thought they were being attacked and opened fire, police said.