Colo. dentist among 10 volunteers killed in Afghanistan

Thomas Grams, D.D.S., a Colorado dentist who spent the last several years of his life providing free care to underprivileged children worldwide, was one 10 members of a volunteer medical team killed August 5 in Afghanistan, according to a story in the Durango Herald and other news reports.

Dr. Grams, 51, was in Afghanistan as part of an International Assistance Mission (IAM) team. The group was attacked after spending two weeks in the Parun Valley, about 160 miles north of Kabul, according to the Herald.

The Taliban has claimed credit for the attack, saying the workers were spies who were trying to convert Muslims to Christianity and that the group was carrying bibles translated into local languages. Dirk Frans, executive director of the IAM -- a registered Christian nonprofit -- told the New York Daily News that the accusations are completely baseless.

"As an organization we are not involved in proselytizing at all," he said.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned the Taliban's act, calling it a "transparent attempt to justify the unjustifiable."

"The Taliban has proudly claimed responsibility for this despicable act of wanton violence," she said in a statement released August 8. "These men and women were in the region to deliver free medical care to impoverished Afghan villagers, according to the NGO [nongovermental organization] they were working with. Before their deaths, they had spent several days treating cataracts and other eye conditions in the Nuristan Province. At their next stop, they planned to run a dental clinic and offer maternal and infant healthcare. They were unarmed. They had traveled to this distant part of the world because they wanted to help people in need. They were guests of the Afghan people."

Dr. Grams retired from his practice in 2007. He was the first volunteer to sign up with Global Dental Relief, and he spent the last four years delivering free dental care to children in India, Nepal, and Afghanistan.

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