Efforts to bring SA doctor home after her family was killed in Afghanistan


Werner Groenewald, 46, with his son Jean-Pierre, 17, and daughter Rode, 15, killed in the latest Taliban strike in Kabul on November 29, 2014.

Werner Groenewald, 46, with his son Jean-Pierre, 17, and daughter Rode, 15, killed in the latest Taliban strike in Kabul on November 29, 2014.

JOHANNESBURG – High-level efforts are under way to bring South African Dr Hannelie Groenewald home after Taliban militants shot her husband and children in an attack on their compound in Afghanistan.

Groenewald&39;s husband Werner, 46, and their son JP, 17, and daughter Rode, 15, were shot dead on Saturday by the Taliban who reportedly believed they were working to convert Muslims to Christianity.

A day before the attack, which happened while she was at work in a Kabul clinic, Hannelie Groenewald woke up with the words of the Imagine Dragons hit song "Radioactive" on her mind.

"Welcome to a the new age, the new age,” she wrote on her Facebook page on Friday before ending her the message stating: "Life as we know it is going to change soon."

On Saturday her husband, South African aid worker Werner Groenewald, tried in vain to protect their children moments before all three were shot dead by the Taliban.

"They shot Werner in his office in the leg and then he ran upstairs to go try and protect his children," Groenewald&39;s sister Riana du Plessis, who lives in Pretoria, said on Monday.

Groenewald and his teenage children bled to death after they were shot. Their compound was burnt, and all their possessions were destroyed.

Meanwhile fast action has been taken by the South African government to help Hannelie Groenewald return home.

Nelson Kgwete, spokesman for the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco), said his department was in contact with a family representative who was assisting in efforts to bring Groenewald home and repatriate the remains of her deceased family members.

"We have received copies of all the identity books which we have sent to our mission in Islamabad, Pakistan," Kgwete said, explaining that this was done because South Africa does not have an embassy in Afghanistan.

"It is not the first time we have worked this way, and we are receiving full cooperation," Kgwete said, adding that he had little new information.

"We have instructed Islamabad to issue emergency travel documents for Mrs Groenewald because all her documents were destroyed in the fire. As soon as that is done she will be able to return home," Kgwete said, adding that the repatriation of the mortal remains of Werner, JP and Rode had also been prioritised.

The attack happened on Saturday at the offices of the Partnership in Academics and Development (PAD) in Kabul, where Groenewald lived and worked.

"Three of them [the insurgents] entered the house and they were disguised as policemen -- one was a suicide bomber -- and the other two had guns in their hands," Du Plessis told Sapa.

The attack by the Taliban went on for four hours.

"They took people hostage... and then they went upstairs after Werner again. They shot Werner again and the children. That&39;s where they died," she said.

After that the house was set alight.

According to PAD, the other staff members emerged with injuries.

Du Plessis said: "They thought Werner was a missionary trying to convert Muslims to Christians, but Werner was not. He was an aid worker there to uplift Afghanistan. He did great work.

"They lost a great person in Afghanistan. I don&39;t know what legacy he will leave behind."

Hannelie Groenewald was at a clinic in Kabul where she worked when the attack happened.

"When she got to the house, she saw the three bodies [of her family] taken out of the house and put into the ambulance," said Du Plessis.

Du Plessis described her niece Rode, 15, and Jean-Pierre, 17, as people who got along with everyone.

"I WhatsApped the children about an hour-and-a-half before the incident," she recalled, weeping.

"They were great children, like my own children. JP loved technology, he wanted to become a pilot... They were very nice children, easy people to get along with."

Du Plessis said she would be making arrangements for their funeral to be held at the Dutch Reformed Church in Moreleta Park, where Werner used to be a pastor.

The church&39;s CEO Pieter Breytenbach said he was saddened by the news.

Partnership in Academics and Development has posted a notice on its website saying several of its staffers died during an attack Saturday in Kabul.

"We are caring for all staff and their families as they grieve the loss of their friends and co-workers and nurse the wounded," the statement read.

"Our thoughts are with the survivors and their families as they grieve the loss of life. Their selfless sacrifice for the people of Afghanistan is an inspiration to all."

Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid claimed on Twitter that the compound was that of a secret Christian missionary group.

Both Hannelie and Werner Groenewald have since August displayed a symbol as their Facebook profile image. They said it was the sign for N for Nazareen, which they said was the symbol painted on Christian houses in Iraq and represented their solidarity with Christians.

-Additional reporting by Sapa