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VOICE OF AMERICA
SLUG: 2-324736 Afghanistan Violence L-O
DATE:
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE=05/19/05

TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT

TITLE=AFGHANISTAN/VIOLENCE (L-ONLY)

NUMBER=2-324736

BYLINE=BENJAMIN SAND

DATELINE=ISLAMABAD

CONTENT=

HEADLINE: Aid Workers Under Attack In Afghanistan

INTRO: A series of attacks on aid workers in southern Afghanistan has left at least ten people dead. This comes as officials continued to negotiate with the kidnapper of an Italian woman. VOA's Benjamin Sand reports from Islamabad.

TEXT: Afghan officials say suspected Taleban militants opened fire on an aid agency's car Thursday as it ferried local staff in southern Zabul Province.

Government spokesman Latfullah Mashal says there were no survivors.

/// MASHAL ACT ///

"There was an attack on a vehicle carrying six passengers. All six passengers have been killed."

/// END ACT ///

Taleban militants were also accused of killing five Afghans on Wednesday in neighboring Helmand province. The victims were working on a U.S funded project providing farmers with crops to replace banned opium poppies.

Mr. Mashal says insurgents have stepped up their attacks with the arrival of the warmer spring weather.

/// MASHAL ACT 2 ///

"Usually they target NGO's, civilians and schools and other soft targets."

/// END ACT ///

He says the terrorists consider unarmed humanitarian workers legitimate targets in their fight against the U.S.-backed central government.

Also on Thursday, Afghanistan's foreign minister, speaking in Tokyo, said his government was negotiating with the kidnapper of an Italian aid worker and suggested she was safe.

The kidnapper had threatened to kill Clementina Cantoni if his demands were not met.

Officials believe a criminal gang is behind the attack, possibly the same one accused of holding three U.N. workers for nearly a month last year.

Ms. Cantoni was working for CARE International on a project to help widows and their children when she was abducted. On May 5th the charity issued a report warning escalating violence in Afghanistan was impeding humanitarian efforts. (SIGNED)

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