Taliban says it attacked Aussie aid worker

Tom Hyland March 27, 2012

The Taliban say they carried out a suicide bombing that seriously wounded an Australian aid worker in Afghanistan, and that the attack was in retaliation for the killing of civilians by an American soldier.

The attack took place yesterday in Chora district, about 25 klm northeast of the main Australian base at Tarin Kowt, capital of Oruzgan province.

The ABC is reporting that the injured Australian is 49-year-old Canberra man David Savage,  a senior employee at the Department of Foreign Affairs and former AFP officer.

Afghan media said the attack involved a lone suicide bomber who detonated an explosive-rigged motorcycle alongside a military convoy as it left the centre of Chora town.

AusAid, the federal government's aid and development agency, said the injured Australian had just left a community meeting when the attack happened.

AusAid said the civilian aid worker, whose name was not released, was accompanied by troops from the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force, ''as is normal for all movements outside the Tarin Kowt base''.

AusAid said said no other Australians were present or injured in the incident.

Afghan media reported three ISAF soldiers and one Afghan policeman were injured in the attack.

The Al Jazeera news service quoted the Chora district governor as saying the three ISAF soldiers were Australians.

The ADF's media operations centre said it had no information on any Australian defence personnel being present or wounded.

The injured Australian was reported to be in a serious but stable condition in the military hospital in Kandahar, site of a massive ISAF base 140 klm south of Tarin Kowt.

The Taliban, in a statement on it is Voice of Jihad website, said the ''maryrdom attack'' was carried out by a Chora resident, named as Abdur Rafi.

It said the attack took place as ISAF troops gathered around their ''tanks'' — used by Afghans to refer to any armoured vehicle — after having lunch in the house of a local ''puppet official'' — a Taliban reference to any government official.

The Taliban, whose media statements are known for their exagerration, claimed the attack killed 18 foreign soldiers — although ISAF said none were killed.

The Taliban said the attack was carried out to avenge the deaths of 17 Afghan civilians, allegedly by a US soldier, in Kandahar province on March 11.

According to a statement by Foreign Minister Bob Carr, the male aid worker was hurt yesterday in Uruzgan province while on deployment with the Australian Civilian Corps.

The man is in a serious but stable condition and is receiving medical treatment in Kandahar. No other Australians were injured in the attack.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard confirmed the incident this morning, while addressing media in South Korea.

''He was involved in work outside the wire,''  she said. ''This is incredibly bad news for the family.''

But Ms Gillard said she could not provide any further information about the injured man.

''His family has asked for privacy at this time, so we won't be naming the individual involved,'' she said.

''We'll be releasing full details when they are available.''

According to Senator Carr, the man was working in Uruzgan with local communities on development activities.

The Australian Civilian Corps — a 2020 Summit idea — is a new group of civilian specialists who deploy to countries experiencing or emerging from natural disaster or conflict.

AusAID runs the program and aims to have 500 civilians on the books by 2014, in areas such as health administration, agriculture, aid, engineering and law. As of June last year, there were 120 individuals registered.

Legislation creating the corps passed through parliament in March last year and so far, individuals have also been deployed to Libya and Haiti as well as Afghanistan. The civilians are not volunteers, but are paid while on deployment.

According to AusAID, a ''comprehensive security assessment'' is conducted before civilians are deployed. Civilians are given ''comprehensive training'' and ''appropriate measures'' are undertaken to protect those on deployment.

with Judith Ireland