Afghanistan: Medical personnel killed in attack

Medical personnel must be respected and protected, Amnesty International said after two employees of the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS) were killed in a shocking attack.One other ARCS employee was injured in the attack on Tuesday in the Khanaqah district of Jawzjan province in northern Afghanistan as the mobile clinic they were travelling in came under fire from close range, despite it being clearly marked with the ARCS logo. “It is an all too common occurrence that medical personnel and humanitarian aid workers have been attacked in Afghanistan,” said Horia Mosadiq, Afghanistan Researcher at Amnesty International. “Attacks by any party to the conflict on medical personnel, units and transports are a violation of International Humanitarian Law. An intentional attack on such persons or objects is a war crime.” The ARCS personnel were attacked at around 5pm while returning to the provincial capital Shiberghan after giving medical aid to people in remote areas.Between 40 and 60 bullets were fired at the vehicle from a close range of approximately 10 metres. The ARCS markings on the vehicle are clearly visible from that distance. Driver Mohammad Najibullah, 45, and health worker Sayed Hazrat, 32, were killed in the shooting. The doctor and the pharmacist travelling in the mobile clinic ran away from the scene but were chased by the gunmen. The doctor was seriously injured and pharmacist unharmed.No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. “The Afghan government, the international forces of ISAF/NATO, the Taliban and other armed insurgent groups have an obligation to respect and protect medical personnel and humanitarian relief workers in Afghanistan.”Last year the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office (ANSO) documented around 164 security incidents against NGO workers, including medical personnel, across Afghanistan including killings, abductions and attacks.In January 2013 it was reported that a female health worker was kidnapped and killed, with her body left to hang from a tree in Maidam, Wardak province. Local residents and officials blamed the Taliban but the Taliban have not claimed responsibility for the killing.Another female health worker was shot death in Kapisa province North east Afghanistan in December 2012.The student and volunteer on a polio vaccination programme was shot outside her home and died later in hospital with six bullets in her stomach. She had survived a murder attempt the day before. The Taliban have denied responsibility for the attack.“Afghanistan still suffers from some of the worst health indicators in the world and chronically poor access to healthcare. Targeted attacks and the resultant insecurity are seriously hampering the work of humanitarian aid workers, including medical staff in the country. The Afghan government and ISAF/NATO forces must do more to ensure their protection” said Mosadiq.“The Afghan government must immediately investigate the killings of two Afghan Red Crescent Society aid workers and bring those responsible for the attack to justice.”