The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has suspended operations in Afghanistan after gunmen shot and killed six local staff members in northern Jawzjan province, spokesman Thomas Glass said Thursday.
The six staff members were shot dead on Wednesday morning in the Qushtepa district while two others are missing. The team had delivered hay to cattle farmers after heavy snowfalls.
“We have decided to put our work in Afghanistan on hold,” Thomas Glass, the head of communications at the ICRC in Kabul said, adding that this included staff movements.
“We are here since 30 years and we won’t leave the Afghans behind, this is for sure,” Glass said. However, Glass added the ICRC “needs to assess the implications of this attack on our operations”.
Jawzjan province governor, Mawlavi Lutfullah Azizi, said the aid convoy was attacked by suspected members of the Islamic State terrorist organization.
On Wednesday, the ICRC in a statement called the killing of the six colleagues a “despicable act”. “Nothing can justify the murder of our colleagues and dear friends,” said the head of the ICRC delegation in Afghanistan, Monica Zanarelli.
The claim of Islamic State involvement is problematic as there is no Islamic State presence so far outside eastern Nangarhar, Kunar and a small cell in Kabul.
The Taliban denied involvement in the incident and said they will “put all effort towards finding the perpetrators of this crime.”
A Spanish Red Cross staff member was kidnapped in northern Kunduz province in December last year and released after 19 days in captivity.