KABUL,Afghanistan (AP) — The Islamic state affiliate has claimed a horrific attack this week that killed 10 workers of the HALO Trust de-mining organization and wounded 16 others in Afghanistan's northern Baghlan province.
The statement issued late on Wednesday said IS operatives killed and wounded 60 workers “firing on them with their machine guns.”
According to reports from survivors the gunmen were looking for ethnic Hazaras, who in most parts of Afghanistan are Shiite Muslims in mostly Sunni Afghanistan. However in northern Afghanistan many of the Hazaras are Sunni Muslim. It was not clear whether the IS gunmen were aware that the Hazaras among the deminers were Sunni Muslims.
Wounded in the leg, Sheikh Mohammad recounted the horrors of the attack from his hospital bed.
The gunmen herded the de-miners into two rooms, said Mohammad. Then the questions began. They were asked: “Who is Hazara among you?' and ”Who among you is working with the atheist Taliban?”
Mohammad Zarif, another survivor, said some of the de-miners managed to escape, helped by local villagers, who opened fire on the IS militants.
The Islamic State affiliate has declared war on the country's Shiites, who are mostly ethnic Hazaras in the rest of Afghanistan, with some pockets of Sunni Muslim Hazaras in the north. The IS has also declared war on Taliban, whom they are fighting in bitter battles in eastern Afghanistan.
Three Hazaras were among the dead. It's not clear whether Taliban were also among the dead.
According to The HALO Trust Global Media Manager, Louise Vaughan, there were 110 de-mining local personnel of the organization in the camp that was attacked. They had finished their work on a minefield nearby when the “unknown armed group” opened fire at them. The attack took place late in the night n Tuesday at the HALO camp in camp in the Baghlan Markazi district of northern Baghlan province.
The Taliban immediately denied any connection to the attack, while the government blamed the insurgent group.
The attack was condemned by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, who called it “heinous.” in a statement, it said that “aid workers and humanitarian organizations are protected under international humanitarian law,”
The HALO Trust is one of several de-mining organizations in Afghanistan that clear unexploded mines.
Associated Press Writer Kathy Gannon in Islamabad and Maamoun Youssef in Cairo contributed to this report