Red Cross worker murdered in Afghanistan

First foreign aid worker killed since Taliban overthrown

The International Committee of the Red Cross suspended operations in Afghanistan Friday after one of its employees was shot on a desolate road.

Ricardo Munguia, 39, of Switzerland was the first foreign aid worker killed in Afghanistan since a U.S.-led military campaign ousted the Taliban regime in late 2001.

The slaying underscores the danger in the countryside, where warlords still rule and gangs roam despite efforts by President Hamid Karzai's central government to impose order.

The Red Cross said gunmen intercepted two Red Cross cars Thursday on the dirt road to Kandahar. The cars were returneing from Tarin Kot in Uruzgan province where Munguia, an engineer, was developing water wells.

They shot him in the head, burned one car and warned two Afghans accompanying him not to work for foreigners, according to residents of Tarin Kot.

"He was shot in cold blood," Red Cross spokeswoman Annick Bouvier said in Geneva. The organization had suspended operations across Afghanistan.

Several aid organizations withdrew or reduced operations in northern Afghanistan after attacks and threats, including the rape last year of an American aid worker.

The Red Cross, created in the 19th century, works in some of the world's most dangerous places. It is one of the largest non-governmental organizations active in Afghanistan.