Accessibility links

Italian Aid Group Protests Detentions in Afghanistan

The Italian aid group Emergency has denounced the detention of three of its hospital workers in Afghanistan. The organization says it was targeted because the hospital it runs in Lashkar Gah treats Taliban fighters along with civilians. Italy's Foreign Minister Franco Frattini has said an investigation will be held on why the three workers were detained by Afghan authorities.

The Italian aid group Emergency has had a tense relationship with local authorities in violence-wracked Helmand province, due in part to its policy of treating all patients.

Afghan officials said they detained three Italian Emergency workers Saturday, a doctor, a nurse and a logistics worker. Afghan officials said they were held as part of an investigation into an alleged plot to kill the governor of Helmand province.

Helmand Province Governor Gulab Mangal said an Emergency staff member received $500,000 as an advance payment for killing him. In total nine people, including six Afghans, were held after explosive suicide vests, hand grenades and other weapons were discovered in the storeroom of the Emergency-run hospital in Helmand's capital, Lashkar Gah.

Emergency founder Gino Strada denounced the detentions of the aid group's three workers, calling it a mafia-style attempt to silence a witness.

Strada says a preventive war has been launched against a hospital. He says the hospital's presence in the region is a problem for the Afghan government and so the aim is to remove an uncomfortable witness.

Strada says he believes coalition forces are planning to launch a major bombing offensive in Afghanistan and the hospital in Lashkar Gah is a problem for them. So this, he says, is an effort to try to get rid of it.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said the truth about the weapons found in the hospital needs to be ascertained as soon as possible.

Frattini said Italy wants an in-depth investigation and also wants to ensure that all three Italians detained are guaranteed all the rights provided for in international conventions. It is evident that we want the truth, he said. The charges are very serious.