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Six Red Cross staff killed, two missing in Afghanistan

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MAZAR-I-SHARIF: Unidentified gunmen killed six Afghan employees of the Red Cross delivering relief supplies in snowbound northern Afghanistan on Wednesday, officials said, underscoring the dangers faced by aid workers in the war-battered country.

Two other Red Cross workers were missing following the ambush in the volatile province of Jowzjan, in one of the worst attacks on the international charity in the country for years.

Their convoy, comprising three drivers and five field officers, came under fire while they were carrying much-needed livestock materials to a remote area badly affected in recent days by heavy snowfall.

“This is a despicable act,” said Monica Zanarelli, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Afghanistan.

“Nothing can justify the murder of our colleagues and dear friends.”

No militant group has so far claimed responsibility for the killings, but Jowzjan police chief Rahmatullah Turkistani blamed local Islamic State fighters.

“Daesh fighters are active in the area,” he said, using the Arabic acronym by which IS is commonly known in Afghanistan.

“We had previously repeatedly warned them not to go to such dangerous areas under Daesh control.”

Turkistani said the bodies of the six workers had been brought to a provincial hospital.

Some of the bodies had multiple bullet wounds and had been shot from close range in the head and chest, Fraidoon Habib, director of the hospital, told AFP.

The brazen attack comes at a time when Afghanistan is in urgent need of humanitarian aid, with more than 100 people killed in recent avalanches and tens of thousands displaced by the wrenching conflict.

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