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August 08, 2010

Clinton: Muslims Reject Taliban Aid Worker Killings

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday that Muslims around the world join people of other faiths in rejecting last week's murder of humanitarian aid workers in Afghanistan.  The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation will join Afghan authorities in probing the attack, for which the Taliban has claimed responsibility.

Officials here say the killing of the 10-member medical team, which included six Americans, is such an unpopular act in Afghanistan that they are puzzled why the Taliban would boast its responsibility.

But they say they take the group's claim at face value and see it as another example of the "twisted ideology" of the militant Islamic group.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke made a joint press appearance to condemn the murder, in Afghanistan's northeastern Badakhshan province, of members of a Christian charity group.

Clinton called the slaying of the aid workers, who had spent several days conducting a free eye clinic in the region, heartbreaking and vicious murder.

But she said it will not deter other volunteers and the international coalition in Afghanistan from seeking to establish what the Taliban is fighting against - a future of peace, freedom and stability for all Afghans.

"As determined as the extremists are to spread their destructive view of the world, the  Afghan people along with their partners, including the United States, are determined to stop them," said  Hillary Clinton. "So as we mourn the loss of these brave aid workers, we will continue with our own efforts, and we will be inspired by their heroism, their compassion and their love for the Afghan people."

The Taliban, in asserting responsibility for the deaths, said the aid workers were foreign spies and spreading Christianity.  Other members of the aid group, the International Assistance Mission, said the slain workers - some of whom had worked in Afghanistan for decades - did not proselytize.

Clinton said their work was independent from any government.  Holbrooke said the killings of volunteers, whom he said were well-known and revered locally, appear to be generating an enormous backlash against the Taliban.

"This was an act by a small ruthless minority, which is what the Taliban are," said Richard Holbrooke. "They do not represent popular will in Afghanistan.  And every poll, every survey - I particularly bring to your attention the BBC/ABC/ARD [public opinion survey] of earlier this year - shows that their support is in the single-digits.  But entrenched ruthless people have the ability to kill unarmed people who were coming back from a humanitarian mission."

On another issue, Holbrooke said that although the death toll is far lower, Pakistan's ongoing flood disaster has now affected the lives of as many people - some 14 million - as the country's 2005 earthquake.

He suggested that because of "donor fatigue" from other natural disasters, including Haiti's earthquake in April, contributions for Pakistan flood relief have lagged.  He said the United States - by far the lead contributor thus far - is pressing key allies and would-be private donors to do more.   

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