Good afternoon. On Friday, Afghan police officers discovered the bodies of 10 medical aid workers who were killed in the northern Badakhshan Province. Six were Americans. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for this despicable act of wanton violence.
These men and women were in the region to deliver free medical care to impoverished Afghan villagers. They were doctors, dentists, translators, and technicians, and their mission was solely humanitarian and wholly independent from that of any government. Before their deaths, they had spent several days treating cataracts and other eye conditions in Nuristan Province. At their next stop, they planned to run a dental clinic and offer maternal and infant health care. They were unarmed. They were not being paid for their services. They had traveled to this part of Afghanistan because they wanted to help people in need. They were guests of the Afghan people.
At least two of the Americans had worked in Afghanistan for more than 30 years. They had worked under Soviet occupation. They had worked under the most difficult circumstances of internal conflict among various sectors of the country led by warlords, and they had worked under the Taliban time.
But according to the Taliban, they were stopped on a remote road, led into a forest, robbed, and killed.
We are heartbroken by the loss of these heroic, generous people. And we condemn in the strongest possible terms these vicious murders. We also condemn the Taliban’s transparent attempt to justify the unjustifiable by making false accusations about these aid workers’ activities in Afghanistan.
Terror has no religion, and these acts are rejected by people all over the world, including by countless Muslims here in our country, in Afghanistan, and everywhere else. As President Obama said in Cairo, the Quran teaches that taking one innocent life is like killing all humanity, and saving one innocent life is like saving all humanity. With these murders, the Taliban have shown us yet another example of the lengths to which they will go to advance their twisted ideology. Their cruelty is well-documented. Members of the Taliban have assassinated tribal elders, thrown acid in the face of young girls on the way to or from school, and earlier this summer, they accused a 7-year-old boy of being a spy and then hanged him.
The murdered medical volunteers, as well as the volunteers from many nations and the international coalition working to establish stability in Afghanistan, represent exactly what the Taliban stands against: a future of peace, freedom, opportunity, and openness, in which all Afghans can live and work together in safety, free from terror.
That is what the government and people of Afghanistan are working to achieve, that is what we are working to help them to achieve. As determined as the extremists are to spread their destructive view of the world, the Afghan people, along with their partners, including the United States, are determined to stop them. So as we mourn the loss of these brave aid workers, we will continue with our own efforts, and we will be inspired by their heroism, their compassion, and their love for the Afghan people.
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