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Last Updated: Sunday, 7 March, 2004, 17:18 GMT
Aid worker killed in Afghanistan
By Andrew North
BBC correspondent in Kabul

A senior aid worker has been shot dead in Afghanistan.

Armed men on a motorcycle killed Mohammed Isha, director of the Afghan Red Crescent in the southern province of Zabul, on Saturday.

Eight suspects have been arrested in connection with the killing, security officials said on Sunday.

It is the latest attack on civilians involved in reconstruction or relief in Afghanistan - five aid workers have died in the past three weeks.

Bettina Goislard (left)
The UNHCR's Bettina Goislard (left) was shot last year
Humanitarian agencies fear the upsurge signals a new campaign of violence against them orchestrated by Islamic militants.

Mr Isha was shot dead as he travelled home from work in Qalat, the provincial capital of Zabul.

Armed assailants on motorbikes forced his vehicle to stop, then opened fire, according to officials.


It is not clear who was behind the attack but Zabul province has been especially volatile in recent months.

There is still significant support there for the Taleban.

Militants were blamed for another shooting in Zabul on Friday, which killed a Turkish road engineer and an Afghan soldier.

Twelve humanitarian or construction workers have died in violence this year - most of them Afghans.

Paul O'Brien, director of Care, one of the largest aid agencies in Afghanistan, says the rise in attacks may signal a new spring offensive against civilian targets.

And many aid workers say the response of the US and other military forces has so far been inadequate.

The Americans continue to be involved in clashes with insurgents themselves.

Nine suspected Islamic militants were killed in a gun battle in the eastern province of Paktika on Saturday, a US spokesman said.

It is in areas like this where reconstruction and aid projects are most needed but as long as the violence continues, aid officials say, such work will be severely hampered.

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