World

2 Finnish aid workers killed in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Gunmen riding on a motorcycle opened fire and killed two Finnish women aid workers in the western Afghan city of Herat on Thursday, officials said, the latest in a series of attacks on foreign civilians that has rattled aid workers, contractors and journalists.

The two women were riding in a taxi when they were shot dead, said Sami Wafa, the chief of staff of the Herat governor. Herat police spokesman Raouf Ahmadi said the taxi driver had been detained as part of the investigation.

Finland's Foreign Ministry confirmed two Finnish citizens died in Afghanistan on Thursday. Spokesman Keijo Norvanto said the two worked for the International Assistance Mission, an aid group which has been operating in Afghanistan since 1966. The organization could not immediately be reached for comment.

"We are faced with a great tragedy," Finland's Prime Minister Alexander Stubb said in a statement. "Finland requires that a thorough investigation be conducted to bring those guilty to justice. Finland must also reassess the security situation in Afghanistan."

The ministry said it has previously funded IAM's operations and that the aid organization has also received funding from Norway and Sweden. Militants carry out near-daily attacks in Afghanistan, usually targeting security forces, which have struggled to secure the country as foreign troops have been gradually withdrawn. Most foreign combat forces are due to exit Afghanistan by the end of the year.

As international troops withdraw, civilian workers increasingly fear they are considered prime targets by militants. Some are rethinking their safety — and even if they will stay. Meanwhile, NATO troops said two of its service members were killed in an attack in southern Afghanistan on Thursday. The U.S.-led alliance provided no other details. Coalition policy is for home countries to identify their military dead.

Earlier on Thursday, a bombing in a market in northern Afghanistan killed six people, including a young girl, while a separate attack in the east killed a local police commander and his bodyguard, officials said.

The attack in the market was aimed at a police car but the police escaped unharmed, said Sonatullah Timor, the spokesman for the Takhar provincial government. The bomb, which was placed on a motorcycle, wounded 26 people, including children, he said.

It was not immediately clear who carried out the attack, but Taliban insurgents frequently target the country's security forces. In a separate incident, a suicide bomber detonated his payload at a checkpoint in the eastern Nangarhar province, killing a local police commander and his bodyguard, according to police spokesman Hazrat Hussain Mashraqiwal. He said the bomber shook hands with the commander before the explosion. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in a media statement.

Associated Press writers Jari Tanner in Helsinki, Finland, and Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, contributed to this report.

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