Aid worker hit in revenge for Afghan deaths, says Taliban

Ben Doherty -Mar 28, 2012

Revenge ... the Taliban says an attack on an Australian aid worker was retribution for the murder of 17 Afghan citizens by US soldier Robert Bales, pictured.

Revenge ... the Taliban says an attack on an Australian aid worker was retribution for the murder of 17 Afghan citizens by US soldier Robert Bales, pictured. Photo: AP

The attack on an Australian aid worker in Afghanistan was retribution for the night-time murder of 17 unarmed Afghan civilians by US soldier Robert Bales, the Taliban has said.

The aid worker - 49-year-old Canberra man David Savage, formerly a senior officer with the Department of Foreign Affairs working as an adviser to AusAid - was seriously injured when a man with explosives strapped to his body walked up to soldiers and staff outside a bazaar in the Chora Valley, in Oruzgan province, about lunchtime on Monday.

The bomber, named by the Taliban as Abdur Rafi, was killed instantly.

Mr Savage, whose condition is serious but stable, was treated at the Australian base at nearby Tarin Kowt, before being flown to Kandahar, and then, it is understood, to Germany, for further treatment.

The chief of Afghanistan's counter-criminal department, General Gulab Khan, said three NATO soldiers and an Afghan National Army soldier were also injured in the blast. There were no ISAF fatalities, he said.

However, the Taliban, which regularly exaggerate the success of their attacks, said 18 soldiers were killed instantly when claiming responsibility for the attack.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi said the assault on the convoy was a direct retaliation for the attack by US Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, who killed 17 Afghans, including nine children, as they slept on the night of March 11.

Staff Sergeant Bales, who has been charged with 17 counts of murder and could face the death penalty in the US, allegedly stalked from house to house in the villages of Balandi and Alkozai, shooting his victims with an M4 carbine rifle.

In retribution, Rafi targeted the ISAF troops as they emerged from a lunch meeting with a local government official, Mr Ahmadi said.

"We once again pledge that we shall not let the foreign invaders rest in peace in any part of the country and shall spill their blood until they are forced to disgracefully leave and until they repay a hefty price for the killing and persecution of our nation," he said.

Mr Savage, a former Australian Federal Police officer, UN investigator and deputy director with the Department of Foreign Affairs, was working as an AusAid adviser, deployed through the Australian Civilian Corps to assist in community development activities. The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, said it was ''incredibly bad news'' for Mr Savage's family.

Mr Savage had been pursuing his strong commitment to help people in need, his family said in a statement. ''That he should be injured while trying to help people is a difficult thing for us to understand,'' they said.

with Som Patidar

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