FBI will conduct autopsies on 6 American aid workers slain in Afghanistan
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
KABUL -- The bodies of six American aid workers who were ambushed and killed along with four others in northern Afghanistan last week will be flown to the United States for autopsies, the head of the relief agency said Monday, though the families of several have asked that the bodies be buried here.
The autopsies will be conducted by the FBI as part of the investigation into the killings.
Dirk Frans, executive director of the International Assistance Mission, appeared at a news conference and confirmed the names of the 10 dead team members, whose mission to provide eye care for poor Afghans in dangerous and remote Badakhshan province ended in tragedy.
In addition to team leader Tom Little, an optometrist from New York who had worked for decades in Afghanistan, the other dead Americans were identified as: Dan Terry, 63, of Wisconsin, another longtime aid worker; interpreter Cheryl Beckett, 32, of Knoxville, Tenn.; videographer Brian Carderelli, 25, of Harrisonburg, Va.; dentist Thomas Grams, 51, of Durango, Colo.; and nurse Glen Lapp, 40, of Lancaster, Pa.
The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack on Thursday, alleging -- without evidence -- that members of the group were acting as spies and missionaries. But authorities in Badakhshan have not ruled out that unaffiliated thieves might have carried out the killings.
At the news conference, Frans repeatedly denied that the volunteers were proselytizing or working for the government.
"Our faith motivates and inspires us -- but we do not proselytize," he said.
Frans said his organization will continue to operate in the country but acknowledged that the loss of experienced staff members will set back some of the services the groups aims to provide in remote regions.
The families of five of the eight foreign workers have requested that the bodies be buried in Afghanistan because they had dedicated their life's work to that country, Frans said.
"That might not happen because the FBI is investigating and the bodies will be flown to the U.S. for autopsy," Frans said. "It might take a week or two weeks and could throw things in a bit of disarray."
Frans said he has made contact with two Afghan team members who survived the trip -- one, Jassim, who left the group before the ambush after complaining of kidney problems, and another, Safiullah, who reportedly was released by the attackers after pleading for his life. He said the Interior Ministry is holding Safiullah for questioning, but did not know if he was a suspect.
"I spoke briefly with him," Frans said. "He sounded okay. He is part of the investigation, and we'll leave that to authorities."
Meanwhile, military officials announced that two U.S. Marines were killed over the weekend in southern Afghanistan when a prisoner tried to escape during prayer time.
The prisoner acquired a rifle and shot and killed the Marines, who were trying to subdue him, officials said in a news release. He was later shot and killed, and authorities are investigating.