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9 NGO Employees Shot Dead in Afghanistan

Balkh Province, Afghanistan
Balkh Province, Afghanistan

Police in northern Afghanistan said Tuesday unknown gunmen have shot dead at least nine employees of an aid agency.

A female worker is among those killed in the overnight attack that took place in the Balkh province. The victims were from a non-governmental organization, People in Need, which is said to be working in the agriculture sector.

The United Nations warned last month that the Afghan conflict has caused a record rise in civilian casualties in the first few months of 2015 compared to the same period in 2014.

No one has claimed responsibility for Monday's killings of aid workers in Balkh, where Taliban insurgents have in recent days carried out frequent attacks against government forces and installations.

Balkh is considered one of the most prosperous provinces in Afghanistan. In early April, heavily armed Taliban militants disguised in army uniforms and wearing suicide vests stormed the provincial prosecutor's office in the capital city of Mazar-e-Sharif.

The attack left 10 people dead and more than 60 wounded. Almost all of the victims were civilians.

The Taliban has also targeted other northern provinces since it launched its annual spring offensive in late April.

On Monday, President Ashraf Ghani while addressing security forces in western Herat province said the stepped insurgent violence in the country's north is meant to harm economic activity.

“The enemies of the people of Afghanistan aim to disrupt security in the northern provinces in order to derail implementation of development projects,” he said.

According to findings of a new study, the conflict in Afghanistan has killed almost 100,000 people and wounded the same number since the U.S.-led international military alliance invaded the country and ousted the Taliban from power in 2001.

The report, released last month and titled Costs of War, was produced by Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies.

The report says that the human toll of counter-militancy war in neighboring Pakistan has also been devastating. It says that around 57,000 people have died and as many as wounded since 2001.

“The combined total civilian and combatant deaths in Afghanistan and Pakistan is almost 149,000 people killed in direct war-related violence; an additional total 162,000 have been seriously injured,” the report concluded.