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A CIA-Backed Militia Targeted Clinics in Afghanistan, Killing Medical Workers and Civilians

Published: October 31, 2019
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Source: The Intercept

On the night of March 8, 2019, four staffers at a Swedish-run health clinic in Afghanistan’s Wardak Province ate together, talked around a thermos of tea, and bedded down for the night in the guard’s room. They were awakened some time later by the thump of helicopter rotors followed by distant explosions echoing from farther up the Tangi Valley. The sounds were not unusual in Wardak, where for 20 years there has been little respite from war, and the four went back to sleep.

The men were jolted awake again sometime after midnight. The main gate to the clinic, which was next to the guard’s room, had been blown in, and the staff heard hurried footsteps in the ruined entryway. The intruders ran past the guard’s room and into the clinic’s main building. The clinic staff huddled in the darkened room as several doors were kicked in across the compound yard. After what one of the clinic workers described as five or six minutes, the staffers, worried that they’d surprise the intruders when they eventually reached the guard’s room, called out, “We’re in here!”

Seconds later, the door to the guard’s room crashed open. The soldiers who burst in wore night-vision goggles and told the clinic staffers to face the wall. They bound the men, covered their heads with hoods, and led them to a room that one of the workers, who The Intercept is identifying only as Hashmatullah for his safety, believed was the clinic’s pharmacy. Hashmatullah couldn’t see, but he guessed that there were five or six soldiers in the room.

“You’re here to serve the Taliban,” the soldiers alleged. They spoke in Dari and Pashto, Afghanistan’s two main languages, but the detainees also heard English.

“We know when they use English that they’re foreigners,” Hashmatullah told The Intercept.

The March raid on the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan, or SCA, clinic in Wardak, which has not been previously reported, was one of a growing number of assaults by CIA-backed Afghan militia units on medical facilities in Afghanistan, according to witnesses and documents seen by The Intercept.

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