Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Afghan death doctor 'not preaching'

Dr Karen Woo was killed in Afghanistan (AP)

The family of a British doctor killed in Afghanistan have refuted claims that she was a Christian missionary.

Dr Karen Woo, 36, was among eight foreign aid workers executed by gunmen in an ambush in Kuran Wa Munjan district of Badakhshan province.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the shootings. A spokesman said the team was killed because they were "preaching Christianity" and "spying for the Americans".

However, in a statement, Dr Woo's family said: "Her motivation was purely humanitarian. She was a Humanist and had no religious or political agenda. She wanted the world to know there was more than a war going on in Afghanistan, that people were not getting their basic needs met. She wanted the ordinary people of Afghanistan, especially the women and children, to be able to receive healthcare.

"She undertook this trek as a medical doctor, accompanying medical supplies and to provide treatment to people who lived in an extremely remote region who had little to no healthcare available. Her commitment was to make whatever difference she could. She was a true hero. Whilst scared, she never let that prevent her from doing things she had to do."

Dr Woo's medical convoy was travelling through Badakhshan towards Kabul after spending three weeks in the mountainous terrain of Nuristan, where the team were delivering medical care and supplies to the people living there. Local police said about 10 gunmen robbed the group and killed them one by one. The bodies of the aid workers and two Afghan interpreters were found on Friday next to three bullet-riddled four-wheel drive vehicles.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said: "This is a deplorable and cowardly act which is against the interests of the people of Afghanistan who depended on the services she was bravely helping to provide. Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this tragic time."

A friend of Dr Woo said she was working in Afghanistan in her capacity as a general physician - not to 'convert' Muslims to Christianity. Mark Von Koeppen, who works as a construction contractor in Kabul, said: "I can't speak on behalf of the rest of the convoy but Karen Woo was not there to convert. Her only goal was to help the people that needed help."

Her fiance Paddy Smith told the BBC: "She was an extraordinary person. You don't find too many people like Karen Woo in this world unfortunately. She was a gregarious, loving, caring person. I will miss her love for life. Anybody that met her could not help but smile. She just made people happy."

The pair were due to marry in a fortnight, friends said.

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