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Ulster-based aid worker is killed in Afghanistan

By Matthew McCreary

An Ulster-based academic was among three aid workers killed yesterday when their vehicle was ambushed in Afghanistan.

The woman, who was named last night as University of Ulster research fellow Dr Jacqueline Kirk, was gunned down along with two other International Rescue Committee (IRC) members and their local driver as they travelled through Logar province to Kabul.

The 40-year-old dual UK and Canadian citizen was affiliated to the university's International Conflict Research centre, based at its Coleraine campus.

The IRC said it was suspending humanitarian aid duties in the country after serving there for more than 20 years.

The vehicle they were travelling in was attacked by gunmen despite being clearly marked with the IRC logo, a spokesman said.

George Rupp, president of the New York-based organisation, said: "We are stunned and profoundly saddened by this tragic loss.

"These extraordinary individuals were deeply committed to aiding the people of Afghanistan, especially the children who have seen so much strife.

"Words are inadequate to express our sympathy for the families and loved ones of the victims and our devoted team of humanitarian aid workers in Afghanistan."

The attack was carried out by five Islamic militant gunmen who stepped out of a small village area and fired at the IRC vehicle on the main road.

Though raised in the UK, Dr Kirk had moved to Quebec in Canada. She had wide experience of working with aid organisations such as Unesco and Unicef in troubled areas of the world such as the Lebanon, Rwanda, Angola, Ethiopia and South Sudan.

She had joined IRC in 2004 and had been based at its HQ in New York.

The organisation released Dr Kirk's name last night along with two of the other three victims of the ambush.

Mohammad Aimal (25) from Kabul, Afghanistan had worked as a driver for the IRC since 2002.

Nicole Dial (30) who lived in Trinidad and Tobago, had been a coordinator in the agency's programmes for children.

The name of the fourth victim, a Canadian woman, was last night withheld at the the request of her parents.

A second Afghan driver employed by the IRC was seriously wounded in the attack and has been hospitalised.

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