Swiss Foreign Minister, Didier Burkhalter, has condemned an attack on humanitarian workers in Afghanistan that left six International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) staff dead on Wednesday.
Burkhalter expressed condolences to the families of the victims, the ICRC and the Afghan authorities. He also called on the attackers to release two further ICRC staff who were kidnapped in the ambush.
A Swiss foreign ministry statement called on "all parties in armed conflict to respect the need to protect humanitarian actors deployed throughout the world, whose work aims to bring relief to people in need. These humanitarian actors are, unfortunately, increasingly subject to attacks."
On Wednesday, a convoy of ICRC trucks, comprising three drivers and five field officers, was attacked by an unidentified armed group as it was en route to delivering agricultural supplies in an area south of the town of Shibergan in Jawzan province.
It is not known who carried out the deadly attack, or why, but media outlets have quoted local officials saying that Islamic State fighters operated in the area. No details were given about the nationalities or identities of the attacked ICRC staff.
“This is 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. “At this point, it’s premature for us to determine the impact of this appalling incident on our operations in Afghanistan. We want to collect ourselves as a team and support each other in processing this incomprehensible act and finding our two unaccounted for colleagues.”
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms what appears to be a deliberate attack on our staff. This is a huge tragedy. We’re in shock,” said ICRC president, Peter Maurer.
“These staff members were simply doing their duty, selflessly trying to help and support the local community. Our thoughts are with the families and loved ones of our colleagues killed and those unaccounted for.”