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Afghanistan: UN confirms killing of Loya Jirga candidate; motive unclear

Afghanistan: UN confirms killing of Loya Jirga candidate; motive unclear

The United Nations today confirmed that a candidate selected to represent his district during Afghanistan's upcoming Loya Jirga, or tribal council, was killed over the weekend.

Mohammed Rahim was shot to death on Sunday night at his residence in the village of Aodok in the Chaghcharan district just hours after having been selected to the electoral collage from that area, according to UN spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva.

"We do not know the motivation of this murder," the spokesman said. "Of course, if there were to be a political motivation it would be a matter of serious concern."

The spokesman also noted that "any investigation should be carried out by the local authorities as Afghan authorities are responsible for security in the country."

The Loya Jirga process is a key component of Afghanistan's political transition. According to Mr. de Almeida e Silva, the second and final phase of the process began today in a number of districts, including in Mazar-i-Sharif in the north.

During the first phase, Afghans in the country's 381 districts are choosing between 20 and 60 representatives. In the second phase, district representatives meet at regional centres to select their delegates for the Emergency Loya Jirga. That process is being conducted through secret ballots and observed by the international community. The Loya Jirga itself is scheduled to start on 10 June.

Meanwhile, the UN is continuing its efforts to provide relief aid to some 25,000 people affected by recent floods in Bamiyan province. Yesterday, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) sent a helicopter to the region to assess the extent of damage.

In another development, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced today the closure of the 22-year-old Nasir Bagh camp in Pakistan as a last convoy of Afghan refugees departed to their homeland.

Nasir Bagh, which an agency spokesman described as probably the most famous refugee camp in the world, had been set up as a tented camp in 1980 as the first wave of Afghan refugees fled the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. The camp then grew into what was in effect a full-blown suburb of the Pakistani border city of Peshawar.

According to UNHCR, almost every famous politician and statesman who ever visited Peshawar paid a visit to Nasir Bagh camp, including former US Presidents Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush, and former European leaders such as Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom and Chancellor Helmut Kohl of Germany.