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Taliban says it killed 10 aid workers

KABUL, Afghanistan, Aug. 7 (UPI) -- The Taliban claimed responsibility for shooting dead 10 members of a medical charity team -- six of them Americans -- in a remote forest.

Authorities said the bodies of all the victims, who also include a Briton, a German and two Afghan translators, were found near abandoned vehicles in the northeastern Afghan province of Badakhshan, the BBC reported.

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The Christian charity International Assistance Mission has been working in Afghanistan since 1966, providing eye care and other medical care for impoverished Afghans.

Aqa Nwor Kentoz, the northern Badakhshan province police chief, told CNN gunmen stopped the victims on a road, took their belongings and shot them one by one. Kentoz said one Afghan was released because he was reciting parts of the Koran.

IAM Executive Director Dirk Frans told the British broadcaster the slain members had been working for 2 1/2 weeks in the province of Nuristan at the invitation of communities.

"This tragedy negatively impacts our ability to continue serving the Afghan people," IAM said in a statement on its Web site. "We hope it will not stop our work that benefits over a quarter of a million Afghans each year."

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Frans said the aid workers and their Afghan interpreters were not Christian missionaries and were not carrying Bibles, as the Taliban asserted when it claimed responsibility for the killings.

The team was returning to Kabul through Badakhshan because members thought that would be the safest route, Frans said.

In a statement on its Web site, IAM condemned "this senseless killing of people who have done nothing but serve the poor."

The bodies were to be transported to Kabul during the weekend.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul said it had reason to believe several American citizens died in the attack.

"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," the embassy said in a statement.

The U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office told the BBC it was "urgently looking into this."

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