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Friends pay tribute to aid workers killed in Afghanistan

By Jill Dougherty, CNN
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Afghan aid workers remembered
  • Friends honor British surgeon, one of 10 volunteer medical aid workers killed in Afghanistan
  • "She touched many lives," fiance says
  • Others killed were six Americans, one German and two Afghans.

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) -- They walk through the gates of Kabul's British Cemetery slowly, some arm in arm, most of the women and some of the men dressed in Afghan garb. Although many of them are young, their eyes tell a different tale. These international aid workers have seen things most people of their age, living in the West, have never seen.

They're here to honor Dr. Karen Woo, a 36-year-old British surgeon and one of 10 volunteer medical aid workers fatally shot in the remote mountains of northeast Afghanistan.

They pass tombstones of soldiers and civilians as they wander through the small graveyard set behind a tall concrete wall in a bustling part of Kabul.

The cemetery was built in 1879 as a burial site for British soldiers killed in the Anglo-Afghan wars. Its walls are covered with plaques memorializing past and recent deaths, including those of service members from the International Security Assistance Force.

Woo's fiance, Mark "Paddy" Smith, stands with friends, a broad-shouldered Irishman whom she met in Kabul.

They were to be married August 20th. The last communication between them was a satellite phone call.

The service is informal. The man who leads it, an Australian who knew Dr. Woo, asks everyone to turn off their cameras. One by one, friends come forward and recall what made the surgeon special.

They place a small, wooden plaque on the wall at the far end of the cemetery. "5 August, 2010," it reads. "In loving memory of Dr. Karen Woo who was killed in Badakhshan along with her colleagues. They died for the Afghan people; their sacrifice will always be remembered."

Three young Afghan boys come forward with flowers wrapped in cellophane. They knew Woo.

As her friends come forward, Smith tells CNN:

"She was an incredible person who obviously touched many lives," Smith says. "She touched mine particularly. And I'm very thankful for that and I could feel that strength that she was sending me."

Others killed were six Americans, one German and two Afghans.

Two of the Americans will be buried in this cemetery: Dr. Tom Little, 61, head of the medical expedition to Nuristan, and his friend and colleague, 63-year-old Dan Terry. Both had spent more than three decades in Afghanistan.

The friends and colleagues slowly leave the cemetery, pausing to embrace one another.

The words read at the service linger in the air.

"When senseless tragedies such as this occur, when evil become manifest through the actions of those who would have Afghanistan return to the days of public executions, unchecked repression of women, and abject terror. When those who only wanted to do good and bring relief to the people of Afghanistan are shot down rather than lifted up, it can sometimes be our first reaction, at least I know it was mine, to think something along the lines of 'these people don't appreciate anything that we're trying to do for them. We should just leave this place and let them wallow in squalor.

... I refuse to allow this terrible thing that they have done to do anything other than cause me to redouble my resolve and efforts to assist the good people of Afghanistan to overcome the evil incarnate that is the Taliban."