An affiliate of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group has claimed responsibility for this week’s attack in which 10 Afghans working for a mine-clearance organization were shot and killed and 16 others wounded.
The U.K.-based NGO HALO Trust said the attack against a camp of deminers in the northern province of Baghlan late on June 8 was carried out “by an unknown armed group.”
In a video statement, Chief Executive James Cowan said many of the slain workers were Hazaras, a Shi’ite minority that Sunni extremist groups consider apostate.
Cowan also said that his organization plans to stay and continue its work in Afghanistan, where violence has sharply increased since the start of the withdrawal of international troops from the war-torn country last month.
“We could be fearful of what is happening in Afghanistan. But we still have a job to do,” he said.
According to its website, HALO Trust has more than 2,600 employees in Afghanistan, one of the most heavily mined countries in the world. The organization says its staff is recruited from towns and villages affected by landmines.
The Afghan Interior Ministry said after the assault that it was carried out by the Taliban, which denied involvement.
In an interview with the BBC, Cowan said "the local Taliban group came to our aid and scared the assailants off."
IS and Taliban militants have been blamed for devastating attacks that have killed hundreds of Hazaras in the area in recent years.
The attack against the deminers was condemned by the UN secretary-general's deputy special representative for Afghanistan, Ramiz Alakbarov, who called it “repugnant.”
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan urged all parties to the Afghan conflict to “safeguard humanitarians in the areas they control.”