Taliban claims responsibility for killing eight 'Christian missionaries' in Afghanistan

     The Taliban has claimed responsibility for killing eight Christian missionaries in Afghanistan. The claim comes after the bodies of eight foreigners and two Afghans were found shot to death in a mountainous area of Badakhshan Province. The dead foreigners, including six Americans, one German and one British, had been working for the International Assistance Mission (IAM), which provides eye care and medical help to people living in remote areas of the country. "Yesterday at around 8am, one of our patrols confronted a group of foreigners. They were Christian missionaries and we killed them all," a foreign news agency quoted Zabihulla Mujahed, a Taliban spokesman, as saying. "They were carrying Persian language bibles, a satellite-tracking device and maps," he added. The IAM Executive Director, Dirk Frans, however denied that the team, headed by American opthamologist Tom Little, and their Afghan interpreters were missionaries. "That is a lie. That is not true at all. IAM is a Christian organisation, we have always been that. We have worked in Afghanistan since 1966 - under the king, the communists, the Russians, the Mujahideen and the Taliban. They have known us as a Christian agency, but we certainly do not distribute bibles," Frans said. An IAM spokesman had earlier said that it was still awaiting formal identification of the victims, but that their families had been informed. The US embassy in Kabul said that it had reason to believe that several American citizens were among the deceased. "We cannot confirm any details at this point, but are actively working with local authorities and others to learn more about the identities and nationalities of these individuals," it said in a statement. The bodies are expected to be returned to Kabul over the weekend.

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