The ten bodies recovered Friday in a remote area of Badakhshan province in northern Afghanistan are “likely” those of ten medical team members, reported the head of a Kabul-based Christian charity on Saturday.
“We have been informed that ten people, both foreign and Afghan, were murdered in Badakhshan. It is likely that they are members of the International Assistance Mission (IAM) eye camp team,” IAM Executive Director Dirk Frans reported. “The team had been in Nuristan at the invitation of communities there. After having completed their medical work the team was returning to Kabul.”
According to Frans, the ten-person team included six Americans, one German, one Briton, and two Afghans. On Saturday, a police official said local authorities had so far confirmed at least two Americans and two Afghans among the deceased. The nationalities of the other six foreigners – three men and three women – had not yet been confirmed. No personal identification had been left behind following what appeared to be an ambush by gunmen.
"We cannot confirm any details at this point, but are actively working with local authorities and others to learn more about the identities and nationalities of these individuals," Caitlin Hayden, an embassy spokeswoman, told The Associated Press.
The U.S. Embassy did, however, say "several American citizens" were among the deceased.
Despite the lack of details, IAM’s Frans was fairly confident that the deceased were members of his non-profit charity, which has been serving the Afghan people since 1966. He said the thoughts and prayers of the organization are with the families and friends of those who are presumed killed.
“If these reports are confirmed we object to this senseless killing of people who have done nothing but serve the poor. Some of the foreigners have worked alongside the Afghan people for decades,” he stated.
Frans also said the tragedy negatively impacts the group's ability to continue serving the Afghan people but expressed hope that it will not stop their work, which reportedly benefits over a quarter of a million Afghans each year.
While the identities of the deceased were still being confirmed, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told The Associated Press that they killed the foreigners because they were "spying for the Americans" and "preaching Christianity."
Frans, however, said IAM is registered as a nonprofit Christian organization but does not proselytize.
The organization – which serves the people of Afghanistan through eye care, development, education and health care – is reportedly the longest serving nongovernmental organization operating in Afghanistan.
Last year, it served in seven different provinces across Afghanistan.