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Six Red Cross members killed in Afghanistan

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has reportedly put its operations across Afghanistan "on hold." The group said increasing insecurity has made it difficult to provide aid to many parts of the country.

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Six dead after attack on Red Cross convoy in Afghanistan: Josh Smith from Kabul

The ICRC announced on Wednesday that it was suspending its aid activities in Afghanistan following the killing of six local staff members.

Dominik Stillhart, the ICRC's director for worldwide operations, told the Reuters news agency: "As we speak our operations are on hold indeed, because we need to understand what exactly happened before we can hopefully resume our operations."

The attack took place 35 kilometers (22 miles) west of the northern provincial capital of Shibirghan, the chief of the provincial police said.

The men had been on their way to distribute hay for animals in areas hit by deadly snow storms when they came under attack in the Qushtepa district, said Mawlawi Lutfullah Azizi, a local governor.

Another two staff members were unaccounted for after the attack, ICRC spokesman Thomas Glass said.

"We confirm that six ICRC staff were killed and two are missing," a tweet from the Red Cross said. 

Azizi added that the bodies of the Red Cross staff were recovered with the help of tribal elders, while efforts to retrieve the two captives are ongoing, also with the tribal elders' help. 

While the ICRC said it did not know who was responsible for the attack, Azizi told Reuters that the aid workers were attacked by suspected so-called "Islamic State" (IS) gunmen.

"Daesh [IS] is very active in that area," Azizi said.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said his group was not involved in the attack and promised that Taliban members would "put all their efforts into finding the perpetrators."

Elsewhere in Afghanistan, a suicide bomber blew himself up after being stopped outside a district headquarters in the eastern Paktia province, killing two civilians and wounding a policeman, according to Abdullah Asrat, the spokesman for the provincial governor.

On Tuesday, a suicide bomber struck at the entrance to the Afghan Supreme Court in the capital, Kabul, killing at least 20 people and wounding more than 40.

jbh, dm/sms (dpa, Reuters, AP, AFP)

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