Aid worker killed ‘for spreading religion’

TALIBAN gunmen killed a Christian aid worker in Kabul as she walked to work yesterday (Gayle Williams, pictured).

The militant group said it targeted the woman because she was spreading her religion.

The dual South African-British citizen, who worked with disabled Afghans, was shot to death by gunmen who drove by on a motorbike in western Kabul, said Interior Ministry spokesman Zemeri Bashary. The Taliban claimed responsibility.

“This woman came to Afghanistan to teach Christianity to the people of Afghanistan,” said militant spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid. “Our (leaders) issued a decree to kill this woman. This morning our people killed her in Kabul.”

The aid group SERVE (Serving Emergency Relief and Vocational Enterprises) identified the woman as 34-year-old Gayle Williams. A spokeswoman for the group in Kabul denied that its workers were proselytising, which is prohibited by law in Afghanistan.

“It’s not the case that they preach, not at all,” said the spokeswoman, Rina van der Ende.

In a statement, SERVE described Williams as “a person who always loved the Afghans and was dedicated to serving those who are disabled.”

The group describes itself as a Christian charity registered in Britain. The website says it has worked with Afghan refugees since 1980 in Pakistan.

Yesterday’s attack adds to a growing sense of insecurity in Kabul.

The capital city is now blanketed with police checkpoints. Embassies, military bases and the UN are erecting cement barriers to guard against suicide bombings.

Kidnappings targeting wealthy Afghans have long been a problem in Kabul, but attacks against Westerners in the city and surrounding provinces have also increased recently. In mid-August, Taliban militants killed three women working for the US aid group, International Rescue Committee, while they were driving in Logar, province south of Kabul.

Meanwhile, to the west of Kabul, assault helicopters dropped NATO troops into Jalrez district in Wardak province on Thursday, sparking a two-day battle involving airstrikes, the military alliance said in a statement yesterday.

More than 20 militants were killed.

Wardak province, just 40 miles west of Kabul, has become an insurgent stronghold.

Militants have expanded their traditional bases in the country’s south and east — along the border with Pakistan — and have gained territory in the provinces surrounding Kabul, a worrying development for Afghan and NATO troops.

Those advances are part of the reason that top US military officials have warned that the international mission to defeat the Taliban is in peril, and why NATO generals have called for a sharp increase in the number of troops here.

Some 65,000 international troops now operate in Afghanistan, including about 32,000 Americans.


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