In civilian attacks such as Tuesday’s, Afghan government officials often opt to blame the Taliban regardless of the killers’ possible affiliation with other armed groups. The move is strategic: to highlight the government’s continuing struggle against the insurgents as the United States and international forces leave Afghanistan in the coming weeks, and the Taliban’s bloody tactics.
Tolo News, a news network in Afghanistan, published footage on Twitter that it said showed people wounded in the attack being taken on stretchers to a public hospital in Pul-e-Khumri, a city about 140 miles north of Kabul, the capital.
Ramiz Alakbarov, the United Nations secretary general’s deputy special representative forAfghanistan, called for an investigation into the attack and described it as “heinous.”
“It is repugnant that an organization that works to clear land mines and other explosives and better the lives of vulnerable people could be targeted,” he said in a statement.
The HALO Trust began working in Afghanistan in 1988. Its field teams clear land mines, dispose of unexploded ordnance found in bombs and bullets, and build facilities to store guns and other weapons safely. The group has programs in 26 countries and territories, including in Iraq, where it began working in 2018.
The HALO program in Afghanistan, which started months before the Soviet Army pulled out of the country in 1989, employs more than 2,600 local staff members and remains the group’s largest operation in the world. HALO says on its website that over the past 30 years, it has worked with the Afghan government to make nearly 80 percent of the country’s recorded minefields and battlefields safe.
Still, the group says, an area of Afghanistan as large as Chicago still needs to be cleared.
Diana, Princess of Wales, called attention to HALO’s work in 1997, when she walked through a live minefield in Angola — once home to one of the most heated Cold War conflicts in Africa — to highlight the danger of mines around the world.