Halo Trust: How were 10 charity workers in Afghanistan killed? Were the Taliban involved?

Ten charity workers have been killed after gunmen opened fire at a Halo Trust landmine clearing camp in Afghanistan.

The Halo Trust says 10 of its staff were killed and 16 injured when gunmen “opened fire” last night.

The attack happened at a landmine clearing camp in the Baghlan province of Afghanistan, at about 9.50pm.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Paul McCann of the Halo Trust said: “The group entered the camp and opened fire.

Wounded people being treated after an attack on Halo Trust charity workers in Afghanistan - which some believe the Taliban is responsible for (Getty Images)

"We strongly condemn the attack on our staff, who were carrying out humanitarian work to save lives.”

What happened and were the Taliban involved?

There are varying reports about what happened.

The Halo Trust says around 110 men from local communities in northern Afghanistan were in the camp, having finished their work clearing nearby minefields for the day.

The charity’s CEO told the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme that the attackers went “bed to bed” shooting the workers “in cold blood”.

It is so far unclear who is responsible for the violent incident.

Afghan officials have blamed the Taliban, a Sunni Islamist military organisation which is currently fighting the Afghanistan government.

Tariq Arian, of the Ministry of Interior Affairs (MOI), told journalists: "the Taliban entered a compound of a mine-clearing agency... and started shooting everyone.”

He has repeated his thoughts on Twitter, blaming insurgents from the group.

And local police spokesperson Jawed Basharat said: "The Taliban brought them into one room and opened fire on them.”

However, Halo Trust CEO James Cowan has denied Taliban involvement.

Mr Cowan said to the BBC: "The local Taliban... came to our aid and scared the assailants off".

In a statement, The Halo Trust says the group behind the attack is ‘unknown’

The Taliban itself has also denied the attack.

What have survivors said?

In a video shared by local police, a survivor of the attack said: “Five to six armed men came, they took us to a room.

"First they took all our money and mobile phones, and then they asked who our leader was. They asked, 'Is any Hazara here among you?' We told them, 'We don't have any Hazara here.'”

Hazaras are the third-largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, and have suffered persecution for decades.

This is mostly because of their predominantly Shia faith, and its contrast with the Sunni sect of Islam which the majority of the country follows.

What does the Halo Trust do and why is it in Afghanistan?

With headquarters in Dumfries, The Halo Trust clears landmines in countries which are recovering from conflict.

It employs almost 9,000 people and works in more than 20 countries and territories around the world.

In Afghanistan, The Halo Trust is helping clear landmines left after almost 40 years of conflict in the country.

Over three decades, the charity says it has made safe almost 80 per cent of Afghanistan minefields – working alongside the Mine Action Programme of Afghanistan.

However, the country is still suffering from civil war, and is particularly fragile as the US withdraws its last troops.

The Halo Trust was supported by Diana, Princess of Wales, and has had a close affiliation with the Duke of Sussex, Prince Harry.

Harry made an emotional visit to Africa in 2019 to retrace the steps of his mother Diana, who famously walked through a partially cleared Angolan minefield in 1997 to highlight the trust’s efforts and the threat of the military munitions.

A message from the Editor:Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by Coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.


Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.