(Reuters/AFP) Gunmen have killed nine Afghan aid workers during an overnight raid on their guesthouse in northern Afghanistan, officials say.
The victims were employees of People in Need (PIN), a Czech organisation that has been delivering humanitarian aid to remote communities in Afghanistan since 2001.
Afghan government officials blamed the Taliban for the attack in Zari district of Balkh province, about 80 kilometres south of the provincial capital.
“They shot dead nine people, including a woman,” Mohammad Daud Naemi, a spokesman for the ministry of rural rehabilitation and development, said.
He said five employees, two drivers and two guards were killed in the attack that started shortly after 1:00am (local time) on Tuesday.
PIN condemned the attack, saying it was “unprecedented in its brutality” and had prompted the organisation to immediately suspend all work in the country.
The group’s country director, Ross Hollister, said the victims “were killed in their beds while they were sleeping”.
In a statement, PIN said its staff had worked in the area since 2002, and it was suspending all operations in Afghanistan.
The Taliban said it was looking into the details of the attack and could not immediately comment.
The militant Islamist group has been fighting to topple the internationally-backed government after being ousted from power by a US-led invasion in 2001.
Last year a total of 57 aid workers were killed in Afghanistan, according to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.
In April, 19 Afghan de-miners were freed two days after being abducted by militants while doing a survey in the eastern region.
Five aid workers of Save the Children were abducted in March and found dead more than a month later in central Uruzgan province.