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Aid Workers in Kabul Alerted to Security Threats

Afghanistan's government is reviewing protection for foreign aid workers in the country. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Kabul reports the review follows the killing of a charity worker in the capital Monday.

The hundreds of foreign aid workers in Afghanistan have been put on alert by the country's government that they need to take increased security precautions.

The announcement follows the killing of 34-year-old Gayle Williams. The dual British-South African national was gunned down as she walked to work in a Kabul suburb.

The Taliban claim responsibility for the execution-style street shooting, contending she was trying to spread Christianity. Authorities say they have no confirmation that the killing was carried out by the insurgents.

The humanitarian organization for which Williams worked, SERVE Afghanistan, denies it proselytizes in the country, which is illegal under Afghan law.

Presidential spokesman Humayun Hamidzada, speaking at a news conference, said the government remains committed to providing security for foreigners working in the capital.

"The international workers based in Kabul, be it with the aid agencies or in the private sector, they should get in touch with the relevant police departments, review their security measures and make sure they take necessary precautions while they commute," he said.

While the tens of thousands of foreign troops in the country travel in military convoys, carry weapons and wear body armor the majority of aid workers, foreign laborers and news correspondents usually move about without heavy protection. That gives them easier access to ordinary Afghans, but makes them more vulnerable.

Six of the 30 aid workers killed in Afghanistan this year have been foreigners.

Officials say Williams' death could hinder the work of non-government groups in the country. Many of the foreign workers provide essential management of and training for numerous vital projects for Afghanistan's reconstruction.

There are also thousands of Pakistanis and Indians in the country, working primarily in the construction industry. Insurgents have previously targeted some of the Indians.

The capital, Kabul, has been relatively calm this year with the notable exceptions of bombings of a luxury hotel and the Indian Embassy, as well as an assassination attempt against President Hamid Karzai.

Billions of dollars in aid from around the world have poured into the country in the past seven years, following the ouster of the Taliban. The country remains one of the poorest in the world, devastated by decades of war.