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Dec 12, 2014 11:26 AM

Before his death, SAfrican teen felt comfortable in Kabul

The Associated Press

JOHANNESBURG (AP) A South African teenager described in a blog post from his home in conflict-torn Afghanistan how he felt more comfortable there than in South Africa, which has a high crime rate. Just weeks after that final note, Jean-Pierre Groenewald died when Taliban gunmen stormed a Kabul aid office where his family lived.

"If you're going to be constantly paranoid that you're going to die if you go out, then there's no point in being here," the 17-year-old had written. He was buried Friday in South Africa along with his father and sister. The three died on Nov. 29 when militants stormed their home in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

The Nov. 1 blog post, which was sent to The Associated Press by a Groenewald family representative, sheds light on the unusual life of a young foreigner who had lived for more than a decade in a country beset by conflict.

Many foreigners, including diplomats and contractors, maneuver with security entourages around Kabul, a frequent site of suicide bombings and other attacks. But Jean-Pierre Groenewald said he had been riding his bicycle alone to visit friends there since he was 13, though he was too scared to do the same thing during trips to South Africa.

"My grandparents always made this huge thing of the crime rate in Pretoria, and I do know that facts support their warnings," Groenewald wrote.

"Here there's only the threat of bombs and stuff like that. No big deal right? Actually it is a big deal but since I grew up here I'm not really phased by those threats anymore," he said.

The teenager said he learned to take security concerns in stride from his father Werner, who the son said had not followed the advice of security advisers from other organizations "to go on lockdown every time there's a minor threat."

Werner Groenewald, 46, worked as a pastor at a church in Pretoria, South Africa's capital, before leaving with his family for Afghanistan in 2002. There, he led the local activities of Partnership in Academics and Development, an aid group with offices in Redlands, California. The family lived in floors above the group's Kabul office.

A funeral service was held on Friday for Groenewald, his son and 15-year-old daughter, Rode, at the same church where the father had worked. In a symbolic gesture, a pastor lit three candles one for each slain family member and blew them out.

Groenewald's widow, Hannelie, was composed during the ceremony. She said in a statement that she had no regrets about living in Afghanistan and raising her children there, saying it was God's calling.

Hannelie Groenewald, a doctor, said an attack had been expected in Kabul on Nov. 29, and that she had been called to a meeting at a hotel to serve as a member of a medical team in the event it happened.

"Little did I know that the attack would take place a few hours later at my house, killing everybody I dearly loved," she said.

In a separate funeral service Friday, family and friends paid tribute to Pierre Korkie, a teacher who was killed in Yemen on Dec. 6 during a U.S. raid on al-Qaida militants who were holding Korkie and American hostage Luke Somers. American officials say militants killed both men.

Uniformed students from a South African school where Korkie had taught escorted his flower-laden casket in the city of Bloemfontein.

In his last blog post, Jean-Pierre Groenewald also talked about school, new friends, his Christian faith, travel to China and other countries and the "pros and cons" of life in Afghanistan.

"All in all, I love this country. I love the life I'm living. I wouldn't change any of it, even if I could," he wrote.

At the end, he said: "That's all I have to say right now. Maybe I'll be inspired to write another post on life here, but that's for another day."


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