An optometrist who calls Delmar home was killed over the weekend in an apparent Taliban ambush in Afghanistan, according to reports from the Associated Press.
Tom Little, who has worked with the International Assistance Mission in Afghanistan for more than three decades, was among the 10 workers gunned down Thursday, Aug. 5. Eight were foreigners.
Little and his team were attacked while traveling through the Badakhshan Province on their way back to Kabul following a tour through the remote Nuristan Province. As part of the IAM's Noor Eye Care program, Little provided eye care to some of the poorest rural regions of Afghanistan.
Noor means light in Persian.
"He just left an incredible legacy of work for the Afghan people, said Doug Van Bronkhorst of InterServe, an organization that facilitates overseas travel and service for groups like IAM. Van Brokhorst also worked with Little many times during his 33 years of work in Afghanistan.
"Whatever eye care there is in that country ... it all goes back directly or indirectly to Tom Little. ... I really grieve for the Afghan people. They've just lost a huge friend," he continued.
A Taliban spokesperson told the Associated Press that the organization was responsible for the killings because the foreigners were spies for the U.S. and were preaching Christianity.
IAM is a Christian organization, but in a release, Executive Director Dirk Frans said the organization abides by Afghanistan's laws and does not use its offer of aid as an opportunity to proselytize and noted Little had been welcomed back into Afghan villages time and time again, which would not be the case had his mission been conversion.
Little had previously been expelled from the country in 2001 for allegedly trying to convert Afghans to Christianity, but he returned after an invasion toppled the Taliban government.