Top UN envoy speaks out after aid workers killed in Afghan attack


Kabul : The top United Nations official in Afghanistan has voiced his outrage at the deaths of three female international aid workers and their Afghan colleague after their vehicle was attacked.

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The vehicle, belonging to the United States-based International Rescue Committee, was travelling from Kabul to Logar when it was fired on by unknown gunmen Wednesday morning.

“I condemn this cowardly attack in the strongest possible terms and urge the authorities to leave no stone unturned in the search for the perpetrators,” Kai Eide, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, said in a statement.

“The IRC provides life saving humanitarian assistance to those most affected by the conflict and it is reprehensible that such selfless individuals working for the most vulnerable communities should be deliberately targeted in this way,” he added.

Mr. Eide, who is also head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), pointed to a “growing humanitarian challenge” in the strife-torn nation, and urged all parties to recognise and respect the neutrality and independence of the humanitarian assistance being provided to the Afghan people.

The UN’s humanitarian chief also deplored the “brutal murder” of the aid workers. “Nothing can justify such an attack on people whose lives are devoted to helping the people of Afghanistan,” said John Holmes, who serves as Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.

He added that the international community is finding it more and more difficult to assist the country – which is facing deteriorating food security, dealing with the plight of millions of returnees and internally displaced people, and weathering the impact of natural disasters and continuing conflict – owing to insecurity and lack of access.

The incident was the latest and most deadly single attack against the Afghan aid community this year, Mr. Holmes said. Already 19 aid workers have been killed in 2008, surpassing the total number of lives lost in 2007.

“I appeal to all concerned to respect these principles and to respect the lives of those who are dedicated to helping others in need, irrespective of politics or religion,” he stated.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres expressed his shock and sadness over the killing. He noted that the IRC has been a longstanding partner of his agency in assisting Afghan refugees and internally displaced people, providing “neutral, impartial humanitarian aid to Afghans throughout all the long years of conflict – both in exile and inside Afghanistan.”