HERAT, Afghanistan (AFP)-A local driver and a doctor with a German-based group were killed in Afghanistan when suspected Taliban attacked their UNICEF vehicle with rockets.
A project manager for the UN children’s agency was also seriously wounded in the attack Friday just 40 kilometres (25 miles) outside Herat, the main city in western Afghanistan, UNICEF said Saturday.
“We can confirm that the two bodies that were recovered last night were of our driver and a doctor with Malteser, a medical NGO in Afghanistan,” UNICEF spokesman Edward Carwardine told AFP.
Malteser International, a worldwide relief agency headquartered in Germany, has been active in Herat and neighbouring Badghis province since October 2001. The UNICEF vehicle had been returning from a routine mission in Badghis with the three men on board at the time of the attack.
“We assume it was a rocket that was fired at a passing UNICEF vehicle which was accompanied by a local authority armed escort,” Carwardine said.
“The UNICEF staff member was very severely injured and rushed to a Herat hospital for intensive treatment.”
The man was in a stable condition but had to have a leg amputated, he said.
Chief of intelligence in Herat, Mohammad Mussa Rasuli, said the driver and a doctor were found dead at the scene of the attack. Two rockets were fired at the vehicle, he said.
“To my knowledge, after four years of being here, this is the first incident of this nature that UNICEF has suffered,” Carwardine said.
The head of the UN mission in Afghanistan, Tom Koenigs, said he would work to ensure those responsible were brought to account.
“We know of no reasons why this attack should have occurred, nor can there be reason to justify murder and maiming. All United Nations staff here share a common commitment to seeing Afghanistan at peace, and able to rebuild,” he said in a statement.
Afghanistan’s efforts to recover after 25 years of war are being hobbled by an insurgency led by loyalists of the hardline Taliban regime ousted by a US-led coalition in late 2001.
The interior ministry blamed Friday’s attack on the “enemies of Afghanistan”, a catch-all phrase that authorities use to refer to Taliban insurgents and other Islamist groups involved in unrest.
Taliban rebels launch regular attacks on Afghan and foreign forces, reconstruction projects, NGOs and government officials but most of the violence is in the south and southeast of the country.
There have however been several incidents in the west. In April unidentified attackers stormed a health clinic in Badghis, gunning down four medical workers and a driver.
The same month a suicide car bomb killed two Afghans outside a compound for NATO-led troops in Herat city.
An Afghan engineer contracted to UN Habitat, which builds shelters, was killed in western Farah province in March.
And three European and two Afghan aid workers working with international aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) were killed in an attack in Badghis in June 2004.
The murders prompted MSF to pull out of Afghanistan after 24 years.
In one of the biggest attacks on health workers, two doctors, a pharmacist, a nurse and an administrator with an Afghan NGO were killed in an ambush in the insurgency-hit south in October.
About 45 aid workers, Afghans and internationals, have been killed in the country since 2002, said Hashim Mayar, deputy director for the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief.
Last year was the worst for aid sector casualties, with about 15 relief workers killed, he said.