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Sole survivor details massacre by Taliban

KABUL, Afghanistan - The first sign of danger was the crackle of gunfire over their heads. Ten men, their faces covered, rushed toward terrified humanitarian workers and began shouting "Satellite! Satellite!", a demand to surrender their phones.

Moments later, 10 of the aid workers lay dead, including two women hiding in the backseat of a car the attackers hit with a grenade, according to an Afghan official familiar with the account the sole survivor gave police.

It is the first detailed narrative of the slaying of six Americans, two Afghans, a German and a Briton on last Thursday in remote northern Afghanistan. They were ambushed and shot after journeying about 100 miles, much of it on foot and horseback, through the Hindu Kush mountains, giving medical care to impoverished villagers.

The survivor, a 24-year-old father of three named Safiullah, was employed as a driver for International Assistance Mission, a nonprofit Christian organization that has worked in Afghanistan since 1966.

Safiullah, who like many Afghans uses only one name, told investigators the killings occurred around 7:30 or 8:30 a.m., according to the official. The official said Safiullah, who is being held, but not behind bars, gave the following account.

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

An Afghan man offered to help the team cross the river. Two members of the team - including leader Tom Little, an optometrist from Delmar, N.Y., 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 took 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 to Kabul.

The Afghan man who had offered to help left. Then came the attack. The gunmen rushed in, firing bullets over the medical team members' heads.

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 an 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.

Safiullah told investigators he believes the lead gunman was Pakistani because he yelled "Jadee! Jadee!" - a word used in several regional languages that means "hurry up." He said he doesn't know why he survived while two other Afghan members of the team were killed.

The gunmen took Safiullah with them on a seven- or eight-hour hike through a forest. During the journey, one of the gunmen spoke on a radio with a high antenna, saying, in Pashto, "Everything's finished. We killed them," Safiullah said.

The Taliban said they attacked because the team members were spying and trying to convert Muslims to Christianity.

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