KABUL, Afghanistan — Two Finnish aid workers with an international Christian organization were shot dead on Thursday in Afghanistan's western city of Herat, officials said.
The attack comes at a sensitive time as Afghanistan audits votes from a disputed presidential election to pick a successor to the incumbent, Hamid Karzai.
Foreign troops have been in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban since 2001 but are withdrawing from the country this year, leaving Afghan forces to maintain security.
“The two women who were gunned down were working in the health sector for a foreign aid organization in Herat," provincial governor Fazlullah Wahidi told Reuters.
Two gunmen on a motorbike approached the aid workers’ taxi and opened fire, he said.
Finland's foreign ministry later said the women were Finnish, while the Afghan Interior Ministry said the two worked for International Assistance Mission, a Christian group that has worked in Afghanistan since 1966.
“The barbaric fate of the women affects us all. The act is particularly shocking as the women were in Afghanistan to help local people,” Finnish president Sauli Niinisto said in a statement. He said he had demanded that local officials do all they can to bring those guilty to justice.
Iran detains 4 journalists
ANKARA, Turkey — The Committee to Protect Journalists on Thursday called on the Iranian government to immediately release four detained journalists, three of whom it said had U.S.-Iranian nationality.
Two of the detainees are Jason Rezaian, the Tehran correspondent for The Washington Post, and his wife Yeganeh Salehi, a correspondent for the United Arab Emirates-based newspaper the Nation, the CPJ said in a statement.
Mr. Rezaian, 38, has dual U.S.-Iranian nationality and has worked for the Post in Tehran since 2012. The Post reported that Salehi “has applied for U.S. permanent residency."
Iran does not recognize dual citizenship.
Names of the other two detained journalists have not been revealed but they were identified by the Post as “freelance photojournalists."
U.N. humanitarian aid
UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations sent its first humanitarian aid convoy into rebel-held areas of Syria without government consent on Thursday as U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon accused warring parties of denying assistance to millions of people in need as a tactic of war.
The U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution 10 days ago that authorized aid access at four border crossings from Turkey, Iraq and Jordan, even though Syria has warned it deems such deliveries incursions into its territory.
No details were available on whether the trucks had reached the people it was intended for. In a report to the Security Council, obtained by Reuters on Thursday, Mr. Ban said that an estimated 10.8 million people need help, of which 4.7 million are in hard to reach areas of Syria.
He said at least 241,000 people in areas besieged by government or opposition forces.
ROME — Meriam Ibrahim, a Christian woman whose death sentence in Sudan for refusing to renounce her faith set off an international protest, arrived in Rome on Thursday morning to a hero’s welcome and a private audience with Pope Francis.
The pope spent a half-hour speaking with Ms. Ibrahim, her husband, Daniel Wani, who is a U.S. citizen, and their two children, Maya, born in prison just days after Ms. Ibrahim’s conviction two months ago for apostasy, and Martin, a toddler. Apostasy carries a death sentence in Sudan, where President Omar al-Bashir has imposed Islamic law.
Pope Francis thanked Ms. Ibrahim for her “courageous witness to perseverance in the faith,” in the face of possible death, the Vatican Radio reported. In turn, the young woman thanked the pope “for the great support and comfort she received from his prayers and from so many other believers of good will,” the Vatican said in a statement.
-- Compiled from news services