CHICAGO (AP) - A proud father visiting his son in Afghanistan spent what would become both men’s final days seeing the city where the younger man ran a small clinic, drinking tea with a university colleague and learning about his son’s work.
A planned visit to a Kabul hospital brought them together with a third Illinois man, a doctor who shared their interest in the Afghan people and a faith-driven commitment to helping others.
Gary Gabel of suburban Chicago and his son, John Gabel, were killed Thursday when an Afghan police security guard opened fire on the group as they entered the grounds of a hospital in Kabul. Also killed was Dr. Jerry Umanos, a pediatrician from Chicago. John Gabel’s wife, also an American, was wounded.
What prompted the guard to fire on the Americans was not clear, but recently there have been a number of so-called “insider attacks” - incidents in which Afghan security forces fire on their comrades or foreign trainers or civilians. Violence has increased in Afghanistan ahead of the NATO withdrawal and also in the weeks leading up to the country’s April 5 election.
Whether the couple’s young daughter, Laila, and John Gabel’s mother, Betty, were along for the visit to the Cure International Hospital also remains unclear. Umanos, who trained young doctors and cared for pediatric patients at the hospital, had invited the family as his guests.
Gary and Betty Gabel “were concerned about helping others,” Arlington Heights Mayor Thomas W. Hayes told the (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald. The mayor said he’s known the family for 25 years as members of the Orchard Evangelical Free Church in Arlington Heights.
Gary Gabel sang in the church choir, was involved with church youth groups and the leadership team. “He was someone who wanted to give back of his talents, enthusiasm and faith,” Hayes said.
Family and friends grieved privately Saturday. The Associated Press left phone messages for Gabel family members that weren’t immediately returned.
“Out of respect for the Gabel family, we don’t have anything to say at this time,” said church spokeswoman Claire Bechard in an email to the AP. She confirmed the Gabels are church members.
Kabul University vice chancellor Mohammad Hadi Hadayati remembered John Gabel as a “good friend” who worked for the Colorado Springs-based charity Morning Star Development and ran a small health clinic that provided a pharmacy and emergency care for the students, professors and employees.
John Gabel had directed the clinic for two years under an agreement between Kabul University and Morning Star, Hadayati said. A phone message left with Morning Star Development on Saturday was not immediately returned.
“We have lost a great man, a great teacher, a man who was here only to serve the Afghan people,” said Hadayati, who had lunch with the whole family the day before the attack.
“I was very honored to meet John’s parents,” Hadayati said. “Both his mother and father were so proud of their son.”
Associated Press writer Kay Johnson in Kabul and Thomas Peipert in Denver contributed to this report.
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