War in Afghanistan

Anguish of the aid agencies

Charities in Afghanistan forced to rethink after the killing of Karen Woo and her nine co-workers

Aid workers were reviewing their operations in Afghanistan last night after 10 members of a medical team, including a British doctor, were killed, prompting fears that Taliban gains in the previously calm north could hit programmes and allow corruption to flourish.

The British Government is expected to review whether it is safe for any of its own civilian staff to work outside the main cities after the shooting dead of Dr Karen Woo, 36, and nine colleagues in the forest of Badakhshan, according to Whitehall sources.

The Taliban claimed that the victims were spying for the US and trying to convert Muslims to Christianity. The claim was angrily denied yesterday by Dr Woo's family who described her as a "true hero" whose motivation was to help Afghans without medical care. Dr Woo had written in a recent blog posting that she would act as the team doctor and run a mother-and-child clinic in Nuristan.

The expedition was run by the Christian charity International Assistance Mission, which also denied the Taliban claims. "The accusation is completely baseless; they were not carrying any Bibles except maybe their personal Bibles," said Dirk Frans, the executive director.

Dr Woo's body, and those of the other victims – six Americans, a German and two Afghans – were flown back to Kabul yesterday. Her fiancé, who was due to marry her in Britain in two weeks, identified her body in a city morgue.

The medics were heading back to Kabul when they were intercepted by gunmen. According to the sole survivor, an Afghan, the group was robbed, then lined up and shot.

Video: Aid workers killed

The killings were roundly condemned. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described them as a "despicable act of wanton violence" and described the aid workers' work as heroic. "The Taliban stopped them on a remote road on their journey from Nuristan, led them into a forest, robbed them, and killed them," she said.

Officials fear that restrictions on civilian work in the north will hinder efforts to ensure that the millions of pounds in aid is not being wasted through corruption and incompetence.

Aid work has focused on the north of Afghanistan since violence in other parts of the country has made it impossible to operate there.

The Foreign Office and Department for International Development stepped up their efforts to oversee aid funding after parliamentary committees accused the officials of failing to supervise projects, leading to widespread mismanagement and fraud. The civilians hired to oversee the projects are protected by private security firms.

However, an official involved in organising security for UK government staff, said: "We carry out reviews of security after an incident such as the one which has just taken place.

"I appreciate that those who were killed appear not to have any security but it did take place in an area which was thought to be relatively safe and under the circumstances it seems very likely that there will be a review of the movements of our people and safeguards put in if necessary. I suspect this will happen, if only in the short term."

Nato is understood to be concerned about inroads the Taliban are making in Badakhshan, as well as neighbouring Takhar province.

The sharp decline in security in northern Afghanistan is one of the most dramatic trends of the war yet has been largely under-reported, with far more attention falling on the country's south and east where Nato's resources are concentrated.

Security analysts in Kabul said that no NGOs had so far decided to pull out of Badakhshan because of the murders.

The growth of the insurgency here may spell trouble for Nato plans to transfer security of some of Afghanistan's safer provinces to Afghan government control.

Violence in Afghanistan is at its worst since US-led and Afghan armed groups overthrew the Taliban in 2001.

June was the bloodiest month of the war for foreign forces in Afghanistan, with more than 100 killed.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower