News 9 june — 15:40

Afghanistan mine clearance workers shot dead 'in cold blood'

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At least 10 mine clearers working for Halo Trust in Afghanistan's northern province of Baghlan have been shot dead, and more than a dozen wounded, BBC reports.

Afghan officials blamed the Taliban, saying militants "started shooting everyone" in the compound.

But Halo Trust CEO James Cowan told the BBC that "the local Taliban... came to our aid and scared the assailants off". The Taliban has also denied the attack.

Violence has surged as the US began to withdraw its last troops on 1 May.

The departure of international troops comes amid deadlock in peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

Several districts in Baghlan province have seen fierce fighting between the Taliban and government forces.

The workers were killed when masked gunmen burst into their compound at 21:50 (17:20 GMT) on Tuesday, after they had spent a day removing mines from a nearby field.

Interior Ministry spokesman Tareq Arian told reporters that "the Taliban entered a compound of a mine-clearing agency... and started shooting everyone".

But the Taliban issued a swift denial.

"We condemn attacks on the defenceless and view it as brutality," the militant group's spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tweeted. "We have normal relations with NGOs. Our Mujahideen will never carry out such brutal attacks."

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