Afghanistan Ambush: Inside the Deadly Ambush on Aid Workers

International aid group doubts the Taliban was behind violent attack on medics.

Aug. 9, 2010 — -- When the convoy carrying 10 medical workers was stopped by insurgents in a remote part of Afghanistan this weekend, team leader Tom Little got out to speak to them.

Little had survived 30 years of Afghan warfare, including the Russian invasion and the Taliban revolution. Using his fluency in the Afghan language of Dari, Little tried to explain that they were returning from a mobile clinic they had set up in a northern village doing free eye care, according to accounts from Afghan police.

To the shock of his colleagues, Little was smashed with the butt of a gun and knocked to the ground.

Alarmed, the other men in the convoy -- two Afghans and five Westerners -- jumped out of their vehicles, but as they tried to come to Little's assistance, the gunmen opened fire, killing all but one.

The two women in the group had remained in the vehicles, but were shot where they sat.

The only survivor of the massacre was an Afghan driver who worked for the aid group for four years. His life was spared by the attackers after he pleaded for his life and recited verses from the Koran, the police said.

The victims -- six Americans, two Afghans, a German and Briton -- were found Saturday.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, and accused the team of trying to spread Christianity in a Muslim part of the world, a charge the aid group and friends denied.

"We're all Christians. We all have strong faith, but that's just a small part of who we are," Danny Markus, who worked in Afghanistan and was a friend of Little, as well as other team members, said on "Good Morning America." "They were consummate health care professionals. That was their focus."

The International Assistance Mission (IAM), the non-profit Christian aid group that the medics were working for, also denied that the group was proselytizing and said at a press conference that they had doubts that the Taliban was behind the attack. Dirk Frans, executive director of the IAM, said police were investigating the possibility of bandits.

Despite the murders, the group has no plans to leave the war-torn nation, according to Frans, but acknowledged that the team's knowledge and expertise would be irreplaceable.

Victims of Afghan Ambush Identified

Little of Delmar, N.Y., was the team leader and veteran Afghan hand. He lived in Afghanistan for three decades, knew the culture and spoke the native language, Dari. He and his wife Libby raised their three daughters in Kabul.

"My husband felt that Jesus really cared for people's eyes, and that was enough. That was enough for us to go do what we could for that," said Little's wife. "He was surrounded by Afghans who would lay down their life for him because they saw that he really cared for the Afghan people."

Dan Terry, 64, also spent decades in Afghanistan doing humanitarian work. Terry and his wife also raised three daughters in Afghanistan.

Thirty-two-year-old Cheryl Beckett of Knoxville, Tenn., was the youngest victim. She spent six years, working on community development and maternal health.

"We're going to miss her a lot, we're going to miss the way that she put smiles on senior citizens' faces and all the members of the church's face," said friend Marion Rhodes.

Glen Lapp, 40, was a nurse from Lancaster, Pa., who said he had hoped to bring a little bit of Christ's humanity to Afghanistan.

Thomas Grams, 51, gave up his dental practice in Durango, Colo., to provide free care to Afghan and Nepalese kids.

Brian Carderelli of Harrisonburg, Va., has been identified as the sixth American killed.

British Victim of Afghan Ambush Was to Be Married in Two Weeks

British doctor Karen Woo, 36, called herself an "explorer kitten." A former dancer and model, Woo gave up a job as surgeon to deliver aid to Afghanistan's most needy. Last year she fell in love, and was supposed to be married in just two weeks.

"I'll miss her love for life probably the most," said Woo's finance, Mark Smith. "The fact that anybody who met her couldn't help, but smile. The fact that she made people happy. She helped people."

Thirty-five year old Daniela Beyer of Chemnitz, Germany, was a translator.

Bodies of the victims arrived Sunday in Kabul, where many will be buried. The Americans' bodies will be flown back to the U.S. for an autopsy.

Markus said in his conversations with Little, he did not discuss the dangers of the mission, but said it's "part of living and working in Afghanistan."

"It's an undercurrent that's there and you just accept it and acknowledge it, but don't dwell on it. It was one of the most admirable qualities about [Tom Little] and the others in the group that I got to meet," he said. "They had work to do, they were there to help the people, and that was really what they focused on."

The Associated Press contributed to the report.