UK

UK medic Karen Woo named as Afghanistan shooting victim

  • 7 August 2010
  • From the section UK

A British aid worker who was shot dead in Afghanistan has been named as Dr Karen Woo, 36, from London.

Six Americans, a German and two Afghan interpreters were also killed. They had been working with Christian charity the International Assistance Mission, providing eye care in remote villages.

Police suspect robbery but the Taliban say they were behind the attack, in the north-eastern province of Badakhshan.

Dr Woo's friend Firuz Rahimi said she was "a brilliant person to work with".

He and Dr Woo both worked with another aid organisation, Bridge Afghanistan.

Ahead of the trip on which she was killed, Dr Woo had written a letter to likely benefactors, telling of the expedition's aims.

She wrote in the letter: "The trek will not be easy; it will take three weeks and be done on foot and with packhorses - no vehicles can access the mountainous terrain.

"The expedition will require a lot of physical and mental resolve and will not be without risk but, ultimately, I believe that the provision of medical treatment is of fundamental importance and that the effort is worth it in order to assist those that need it most."

Mr Rahimi spoke to Dr Woo on the phone the night before she left for the trip.

He told the BBC: "[She was] a brilliant person to work with. She was very into doing things she believed in. I will remember her for many things for the short period if time I knew her, not more than two years. She was full of dedication and a very calm person."

Dr Woo had left her job working with Bupa in the UK to work in Afghanistan and had been creating a documentary for Bridge Afghanistan about her aid efforts.

A post on its blog said: "We have just heard the terrible news from Afghanistan.

"Unfortunately Karen was part of the group that were killed whilst delivering aid and medical care in Nuristan of Afghanistan," it read.

The bodies of the victims were found next to abandoned vehicles, discovered a day after contact was lost with the team.

An International Assistance Mission (IAM) spokesman they had been working for the past two-and-a-half weeks in the neighbouring province of Nuristan at the invitation of communities.

The charity said it was still awaiting formal identification of the victims but that their families had been informed.

The BBC's Quentin Sommerville in Kabul said Dr Woo had given up her well-paid private healthcare job to work in Afghanistan for "almost no money".

"She was part of a team which travelled to one of the remotest parts of the country. They actually had to take pack horses at some point over mountain passes which were covered in snow to get to those very remote areas to bring healthcare to local Afghans," our correspondent said.

"It was while they were returning that the attack took place."

Badakhshan, a mainly ethnic Tajik region bordering Tajikistan, is one of the few Afghan provinces not to have been controlled by the Taliban before the US-led invasion of 2001.

Our correspondent said it has long been regarded as a safe area, although locals have complained about the growing threat from insurgents.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed the group were found in possession of bibles translated into Dari and had been killed because they were Christian Missionaries.

However, IAM's executive director Dirk Frans said the claim was "not true at all".

While IAM was a Christian organisation, its leaders had decades of experience working in Afghanistan under all regimes, he said.

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