EMU Grad One Of 10 Killed In Afghanistan

Brent Finnegan -- August 8th, 2010

Glen Lapp, an EMU alum (’91) working in Afghanistan, is one of 10 humanitarian medical workers killed in a shooting incident in the northeastern Badakhshan province Thursday, August 5.

Police found 10 bodies on Friday next to abandoned vehicles. One Afghan team member traveled home via another route and is safe. Another Afghan survived the attack and is being questioned by the police.

On Sunday morning, Lapp’s family received confirmation of his death from the U.S. Embassy. After delays due to poor weather in the area of the attack, the bodies had been taken to the capital city of Kabul for official identification.

(read more from MCC’s statement)

Glen LappLapp, a 40-year-old nurse, was working with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) partner organization International Assistance Mission (IAM), a charity providing eye care and medical help in Afghanistan.

Lapp was killed alongside five other Americans, two Afghans, a German, and a Briton.

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the killings. On Saturday, NPR reported:

The IAM team — six Americans, one German, one Briton and four Afghans — were on a three-week trip to Nuristan province, Frans said. They drove to the province, left their vehicles and hiked for hours with pack horses over mountainous terrain to reach the Parun valley in the province’s northwest . . .

Gen. Agha Noor Kemtuz, police chief in Badakhshan province, said the victims, who had been shot, were found Friday next to three bullet-riddled four-wheel drive vehicles in Kuran Wa Munjan district. He said villagers had warned the team that the area was dangerous, but the foreigners said they were doctors and weren’t afraid. He said local police said about 10 gunmen robbed them and killed them one by one . . .

The team trekked from village to village during the two weeks, treating about 400 people for eye disorders and other illnesses.

Dr. Lisa Schirch, a professor of peacebuilding at EMU’s graduate Center for Justice & Peacebuilding, worked and traveled with Lapp in Kabul. She told hburgnews.com that she and Lapp had many conversations about the risks involved with humanitarian work in Afghanistan, but he believed the needs of the people there outweighed personal risks. “There’s not a lot of medical assistance available to people in those remote areas [where Lapp was killed].”

Schirch said the killing of IAM workers in Afghanistan is not common.

“The Taliban is a very diverse group,” Schirch said Sunday. “[These killings] are not necessarily the official Taliban line. Normally they leave medical missions alone . . . IAM operated under Taliban rule in the 1990s. It’s unusual that he died in this way,” she said, suggesting that the killings may have been motivated by robbery, as opposed to strategic insurgent military operations.

Schirch hopes that Americans realize the scope of humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan, and the ongoing needs of the Afghan people, many of whom put themselves at risk alongside Americans like Lapp.

“Glen found the work that he did to be very meaningful. I hope that his life is an inspiration to people to continue the work that he was doing there.”

File photo of Glen Lapp from the MCC website.

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7 Responses to “EMU Grad One Of 10 Killed In Afghanistan”

  1. Emmy says:

    Thinking about all of the victims and their families. Very sad news.

  2. Emmy says:

    TV3 is reporting that one of the victims was a former JMU student.

  3. Tom says:

    I visited EMU, and stayed in Harrisonburg city for 5 months. Sad about the deaths of Glen. and the Harrisonburg young man. Damn stupid terrorist animals.

  4. David T says:

    on the front page of my local paper, pittsburgh post-gazette citing this article:


  5. An AP report tells the second-hand account of the final moments, as told by an unnamed official who reportedly has knowledge of the story told by the lone survivor.

    … At the end of the trip, the team spent their final night in a village. The next morning, riding in four-wheeled drive vehicles, they encountered a river swollen by heavy rains.

    An Afghan man in the area offered to help the team as it was trying to cross the river. Two members of the team — including leader Tom Little, an optometrist from Delmar, New York, who had worked in Afghanistan since the late 1970s — rolled up their pants legs and waded in to find a spot shallow enough for the vehicles to ford the river.

    After successfully crossing, the team stopped to take a break in a forested area at the side of the road, which ran through a narrow valley. They wanted to get ready for their long journey back though Badakhshan province and on to the Afghan capital, Kabul.

    The Afghan man who had offered to help the group left. Then came the attack.

    The gunmen rushed in, firing bullets over the medical team members’ heads.

    “What’s happening?” Little shouted.

    A gunman struck Little in the head with the back of an AK-47 rifle. Little fell bleeding to the ground. When he tried to get up, the attackers fatally shot him in the torso.

    Two of three female members of the team had jumped inside one SUV to hide. The attackers tossed a grenade at the vehicle, killing them both. Then, one by one, they killed the rest of the group — except the driver…


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