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Afghanistan aid workers' deaths highlights delicate position of Christian-affiliated groups

The killing of 10 aid workers with the International Assistance Mission in Afghanistan underscores the suspicion Christian-affiliated groups can face from some Afghans and government opponents. Such groups point to codes of conduct they follow in the country.

Dirk Frans, director of the International Assistance Mission, center, talks to a journalist during a press conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday. The Christian charity said Monday it had no plans to leave Afghanistan despite the murders of 10 members of its medical aid team.

Rodrigo Abd/AP

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The murder of an international medical aid team in Afghanistan has driven home the delicate position of Christian-affiliated organizations operating in the country.

While focused on humanitarian work, not religious instruction, such groups sometimes face suspicion by Afghans and manipulation by antigovernment elements.

The 10-member team was gunned down Thursday after providing medical care in remote villages in northeastern Afghanistan. A Taliban spokesman claimed they were killed for spying and trying to convert Muslims. The team was assembled by the International Assistance Mission (IAM), a group that describes itself as an international nonprofit Christian charitable organization.

"Our faith motivates and inspires us – but we do not proselytize," said IAM director Dirk Frans at a press conference in Kabul Monday.

Christian-affiliated aid groups, including IAM, work in Afghanistan under self-imposed international codes of conduct that forbid using aid to further a religious standpoint. This has largely shielded Christian-affiliated groups from being targeted over religion, but both the Taliban and politicians have tried recently to pin the "proselytizer" label on such foreigners.

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