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Aid Group Says It’s Staying Put in Afghanistan Despite Deadly Ambush

August 9, 2010 at 12:00 AM EST
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GWEN IFILL: Six Americans were killed in the medical team ambush in Afghanistan, along with two Afghans. The remaining two, one British, one Germany, were identified today. And the Taliban has claimed responsibility for the murders.

The 10 international aid workers lost their lives Thursday in the remote and rugged Northeast corner of the country. They were lined up and gunned down on their way home from taking medical supplies to remote villages.

The International Assistance Mission, a Christian charity, said the group specifically picked a route home through a neighboring province because they thought it would be the safest.

Today, in Kabul, the director of the charity said his group remains committed to its medical mission and has no plans to leave the country.

DIRK FRANS, director, International Assistance Mission: As things stand right now, IAM is not thinking of withdrawing from Afghanistan. Our NGO has worked here for well over four decades. And we remember that there were times when security was much worse than it is right now.

GWEN IFILL: The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack and insisted the team members were actually trying to convert Muslims to Christianity. That’s a charge the aid group and the U.S. government denied.

KARL EIKENBERRY, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan: These were selfless volunteers who devoted themselves to providing free and much-needed health care to Afghans in the most remote and difficult parts of your country.

GWEN IFILL: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke in Washington today.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. Secretary of State: The murdered medical volunteers, as well as the volunteers from many nations and the international coalition working to establish stability in Afghanistan, represent exactly what the Taliban stands against: a future of peace, freedom, opportunity, and openness, in which all Afghans can live and work together in safety, free from terror.

GWEN IFILL: The bodies of the 10 arrived in Kabul on Sunday. Five of the families have elected to have funerals and burials in Afghanistan, including the family of Tom Little, the team leader. He was an optometrist who had worked in Afghanistan since the late 1970s.

LIBBY LITTLE, Widow of Tom Little: He gave his life, the best years of his life, you know, to bring medical care to Afghan people. And he will be buried in a Christian cemetery right there in Kabul.

GWEN IFILL: The other Americans included cameraman Brian Carderelli, health expert Cheryl Beckett, dentist Tom Grams, and Glen Lapp, a nurse. The sixth American was Dan Terry, another longtime Afghan worker.