Afghanistan: UN refugee agency deplores attacks on aid workers

5 October 2003

Responding to a spate of attacks on relief personnel in Afghanistan, the United Nations refugee agency today condemned the trend while vowing to continue its work on behalf of the country's beleaguered people.

“We are extremely concerned about repeated security incidents involving aid workers,” Maki Shinohara, a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told reporters in Kabul.

On Saturday morning, workers from the Demining Agency for Afghanistan (DAFA), which partners with the UN Mine Action Centre, were clearing mines in Zhare Dasht when they came under attack by four assailants driving up to their work site. One DAFA driver was injured and the group's vehicles were sprayed with bullets.

“What is particularly alarming is that the assailants reportedly intended to gather and kill the demining group, but were distracted” from carrying out the task, Ms. Shinohara said.

The Kandahar authorities immediately sent armed guards in ten vehicles to the scene. Two suspects were arrested, but the assailants' vehicle reportedly drove off into the mountains.

The UNHCR spokesperson noted that Zhare Dasht, which hosts some 40,000 displaced Afghans, is flanked by armed guards, but following this incident, aid workers will likely have to resort to armed escorts to and from the settlement.

“We condemn with strongest possible terms such cowardly acts of attacking Afghan aid workers who are working hard to help the Afghan people,” Ms. Shinohara said. “The all-too-frequent security incidents frustrate assistance activities, but we will continue to help those in need to the best of our ability.”


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