Page last updated at 17:05 GMT, Thursday, 14 August 2008 18:05 UK

Dead Afghanistan aid worker named

Dr Jacqueline Kirk was killed with three others in the ambush - pic courtesy McGill University
Dr Jacqueline Kirk was killed with three others in the ambush

A UK aid worker killed in Afghanistan has been named as University of Ulster research fellow Dr Jacqueline Kirk.

She was one of three female aid workers shot dead in an ambush, along with their Afghan driver, near Kabul, the International Rescue Committee said.

The other two women were a Trinidadian-American and a Canadian.

The Department for International Development (DFID) said it utterly condemned attacks on innocent civilians.

"Thanks to the help of aid workers like these, real progress has been made in improving the lives of the Afghan people," said DFID Minister Shahid Malik.

Programmes suspended

Dr Kirk, 40, had UK and Canadian citizenship and was based at the university's International Conflict Research centre in Coleraine.

The women were travelling from Gardez in the south-east to Kabul when they were attacked.

A second Afghan driver was hurt when unidentified gunmen fired on the group as they drove through Logar province.

Dr Kirk's husband Andrew, a research scientist, said his wife's killers knew she was an unarmed aid worker.

"They were travelling in white Toyota Land Cruisers that were clearly marked as IRC vehicles, as humanitarian vehicles.

"Their policy was never to travel with weapons in the car so there wouldn't be any doubt that they're a peaceful humanitarian organisation."


Words are inadequate to express our sympathy for the families and loved ones of the victims and our devoted team of humanitarian aid workers in Afghanistan
George Rupp
International Rescue Committee

The bodies were taken to the governor's compound in the provincial capital, Puli Alam.

A Taleban spokesman described the aid workers as foreign spies.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) has suspended all of its humanitarian aid programmes in Afghanistan, after 20 years of operating in the country.

The organisation said it was "stunned and profoundly saddened".

"Words are inadequate to express our sympathy for the families and loved ones of the victims and our devoted team of humanitarian aid workers in Afghanistan," said IRC president George Rupp.

Minister Shahid Malik said the UK's heartfelt condolences went out to the families of those killed.

He commended the "courageous aid workers".

"Many thousands of children are alive today thanks to aid work on improving health standards. Six million children are now in education, two million of them girls, compared to one million boys, with girls banned from schools under the Taliban.

"In contrast the insurgents have nothing to offer the Afghan people other than more killings and intimidation," he said.

Conflict experience

BBC correspondent Alastair Leithead said the deaths were likely to have an impact on the work of aid agencies in Afghanistan, who had recently warned of a "rapidly deteriorating" situation.

He said they would be taking a "long hard look" at their security arrangements and assessing areas where it might not be safe to operate.

Dr Kirk, who joined the IRC in 2004 and had been based at its HQ in New York, was brought up in the UK but later moved to Quebec in Canada.

She had experience of working with aid organisations in conflict zones including Lebanon, Rwanda, Angola, Ethiopia and south Sudan.

Two of the other three victims were named as Nicole Dial, 30, of Trinidad and Tobago, and Mohammad Aimal, 25, from Kabul, Afghanistan, who had worked as a driver for the IRC since 2002.

The name of the fourth victim, a Canadian woman, is being withheld at her parents' request.

Aid agencies are frequently targeted in the Afghan conflict, with convoys attacked and staff abducted or killed.




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