Belfast Telegraph

Home News World

Survivor recalls Afghanistan attack

One of the gunmen who killed 10 charitable health workers, including a Briton, in northern Afghanistan got a lift with the medical team shortly before the murders, the sole survivor of the attack revealed.

On August 5, the day of the attack, the medical team stopped to give three men a lift - a common courtesy in the rugged, remote area.

Soon after, 10 members of the International Assistance Mission - Briton Karen Woo, six Americans, two Afghans and one German - were killed.

"God was good to me," the team's surviving driver, Safiullah, said.

It was a tragic finale to the team's two-week mission covering about 100 miles - much of it on foot and horseback - through the Hindu Kush mountains, giving vision and other medical care to impoverished villagers in Nuristan province.

Safiullah, 28, recounted how the team was rushed by gunmen shouting "Satellite! Satellite!" - a demand to surrender their phones. He explained how the attackers spared his life, then forced him to walk for hours through a forest before releasing him.

Speaking from his home in Kabul, he said the team picked up three pedestrians on their return trip back to the Afghan capital. They climbed into one of the three four-wheeled drive vehicles. After the team, who were working for the International Assistance Mission charity, was stopped by a swollen river, two of the men went on their way. The third man "quickly disappeared", Safiullah said in his first media interview since he was released by Afghan authorities this week.

Team leader Dr Tom Little, an optometrist from Delmar, New York, and another team member waded into the river with long sticks to find a shallow place for the vehicles to safely cross, he said. After successfully crossing, the team stopped to ready themselves for their long trip back through Badakhshan province and on to the capital. It was at that point that the attack began.

Among the 10 gunmen was the third pedestrian who had a patchy beard, Safiullah said.

One gunman shot Little after hitting him in the head with the back of an AK-47 rifle. Another threw a grenade at one of the vehicles, killing two female members of the team who were hiding inside. Then they shot the team's Afghan cook, who had used luggage to barricade himself under the car that was attacked and burned, Safiullah said.

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph