- Associated Press - Monday, August 9, 2010

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A Christian charity said Monday it had no plans to leave Afghanistan despite the killings of 10 members of its medical aid team and repeated that the organization does not attempt to convert Muslims to Christianity.

The 10 members — six Americans, two Afghans, one Briton and a German — were gunned down Thursday after they were accosted by gunmen after finishing a two-week mission providing medical care to impoverished villagers in Nuristan province. The Taliban have claimed responsibility and alleged the group were spies and tried to convert Muslims.

During a press conference Monday, the International Assistance Mission, a Kabul-based charity that organized the trip, released the names of the last two victims. They were Brian Carderelli of Harrisonburg, Va., and Daniela Beyer of Chemnitz, Germany. German media say she was a 35-year-old translator.

“We want to pay tribute to each of our colleagues who died, to their commitment to serve the Afghan people,” said IAM director Dirk Frans. “Those who have known them and seen them at work can do nothing but pay the highest tribute to them.”

Mr. Frans displayed an Afghan government document granting the team permission to treat people in the remote Parun Valley for eye diseases and insisted there was no attempt to preach Christianity.

“Our faith motivates and inspires us, but we do not proselytize,” he said. Mr. Frans said it was likely that members of the group were carrying personal Bibles in English and German but not in Afghan languages as alleged by the Taliban.

Mr. Frans said the organization had worked in Afghanistan for four decades and had no plans to leave. Of the eight foreigners, families of five have requested burials in Afghanistan, Mr. Frans said. The bodies are being flown back to the United States for FBI autopsies and returned to Kabul later for burial.

But Mr. Frans acknowledged that the losses left the organization “devastated.”

Team leader Tom Little of Delmar, N.Y., began working in Afghanistan in the late 1970s and was the “driving force” in the group’s efforts to expand vision care in the country. Fluent in the Afghan language Dari, Mr. Little and his wife raised three daughters in Kabul despite political turmoil and a bloody civil war.

“He is irreplaceable,” Mr. Frans said.

The bodies were flown from northern Afghanistan back to Kabul by helicopter Sunday along with the lone survivor of the attack, an Afghan driver who said he was spared because he was a Muslim and recited Islamic holy verses as he begged for his life. The IAM said the driver was a trusted employee with four years of service.

Police said they don’t know if he is a witness or an accomplice in the killings.

“We are heartbroken by the loss of these heroic, generous people,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday in Washington. She condemned the Taliban for the deaths and what she called a “transparent attempt to justify the unjustifiable by making false accusations about their activities.”

Among the victims was Dan Terry, 64, who had lived in Afghanistan since 1980 with his wife, rearing three daughters while working with impoverished ethnic groups.

Others had made financial sacrifices to come here.

Story Continues →