Slain doctors brought medical care to Afghanistan (AP)

Aug 8th, 2010 | By worldnews | Category: World

DENVER – Friends of the members of a medical team gunned down in Afghanistan said Sunday the doctors brought some of the first toothbrushes and eyeglasses villagers had ever seen and spent no time talking about religion as they provided medical care.

Dr. Thomas Grams, 51, had quit his dental practice in Durango, Colo., four years ago to work full-time giving impoverished children free dental care in Nepal and Afghanistan, said Katy Shaw of Global Dental Relief, a Denver-based group that sends teams of dentists around the globe. He was killed Thursday along with five other Americans, two Afghans, one German and a Briton, Shaw said.

“This just breaks my heart,” she said.

The bodies of the assassinated medical team were returned to Kabul aboard helicopters Sunday and the families of the six Americans were formally notified of their deaths after U.S. officials confirmed their identities, said Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the embassy.

The Taliban has claimed credit for the attack, saying the workers were trying to convert Muslims to Christianity.

But Grams’ former partner at the Durango practice told the Associated Press Sunday that the medical group had no religious mission.

Grams had “absolutely zero interest in proselytizing,” Dr. Courtney Heinicke said.

Officials have said the victims also included team leader Tom Little, an optometrist from Delmar, New York, who had lived in Afghanistan for about 30 years, and Dr. Karen Woo, who gave up a job in a private clinic in London to do humanitarian work in Afghanistan.

Khris Nedam, head of the Kids 4 Afghan Kids charity that builds schools and wells in Afghanistan, said the physicians were “serving the least for all the right reasons.” She knew both Little and Grams.

“The kids had never seen toothbrushes, and Tom brought thousands of them. He trained them how to brush their teeth, and you should’ve seen the way they smiled after they learned to brush their teeth,” Nedam said Sunday.

Nedam also said the medical group spent no time talking about religion.

“Their mission was humanitarian, and they went there to help people,” Nedam said, a third-grade teacher from Livonia, Mich.

The team was attacked while returning to Kabul after a two-week mission in the remote Parun valley of Nuristan province about 160 miles (260 kilometers) north of Kabul. The bullet-riddled bodies were found Friday near three four-wheeled drive vehicles in a wooded area just off the main road through a narrow valley in the Kuran Wa Munjan district of Badakhshan.

The gunmen spared an Afghan driver who told police he recited verses from the Islamic holy book the Quran as he begged for his life.

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