International Red Cross Suspends Activities in Afghanistan

Kabul, Afghanistan (AP) -- The international Red Cross on Thursday temporarily suspended its activities in Afghanistan following an attack that killed six of its employees the previous day in a northern province.

According to Thomas Glass, spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, the aid group's "activities are on hold" until next Tuesday or possibly longer.

The organization, he told The Associated Press, needs "to reassess how we can conduct our work" safely following Wednesday's attack near the northern town of Shibirghan.

Glass described the assault as the "worst incident" for ICRC in 16 years in Afghanistan. The eight-person ICRC team was delivering livestock materials near Shibirghan, the capital of Jowzjan province, when the gunmen attacked their convoy.

"We are not planning to leave Afghanistan," he added. "We need to have a dialogue with all parties in the conflict about the security and safety of our staff."

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but the provincial police chief, Rahmatullah Turkistani, said it was likely carried out by Islamic State militants, who have a presence in the area. The Taliban, who have been waging a 15-year insurgency against the Kabul government, denied involvement.

Earlier on Thursday, an Afghan official said NATO drone strikes killed 11 Islamic State militants, including two senior commanders, in the eastern Nangarhar province.

According to Mohammad Hussain Mashraqiwal, a spokesman for the provincial police chief, the two commanders killed in Wednesday's strikes were Mohammed Omar Sadiq and Omar Farooq. Six people were also wounded in the airstrikes, he added.

U.S. Navy Cpt. Bill Salvin, a military spokesman, confirmed that American forces conducted counterterrorism strikes in Nangarhar on Wednesday, without providing further details.

Late Thursday, President Ashraf Ghani's office released a statement saying that Afghan security forces and NATO's Resolute Support mission in a Feb. 1 operation in Nangarhar province killed a senior Islamic State commander, Qari Munib.

Salvin confirmed the operation and said that Munib "was responsible for facilitating multiple" deadly suicide attacks in Kabul last year — including the July massive suicide bombing that struck a peaceful rally by Afghanistan's minority ethnic Hazara community, killing more than 80 people and wounding hundreds.

An Islamic State affiliate has emerged in eastern Afghanistan as a rival to the much larger Taliban, and has carried out attacks targeting the country's Shiite minority and also Afghan security forces.

In other violence on Thursday, a gunman shot and killed a member of the provincial council along with four of his bodyguards in norther Baghlan province, police spokesman Jawed Basharat said.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for that attack.

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