UN staff in Somalia mourn loss of colleagues killed in deadly blast

30 October 2008

United Nations staff in Somalia are mourning the loss of two of their colleagues who were killed in yesterday’s explosion at the UN compound in Hargeisa, which also seriously injured six others and was part of a wave of attacks in the north of the strife-torn nation.

Mark Bowden, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, has confirmed that Mohammed Geele and Sayid Hashi were killed in the car bomb attack on the UN Development Programme (UNDP) compound that occurred on Wednesday morning.

Mr. Geele, a Local Security Advisor who had worked for the UN for five years, is survived by his wife and five children.

Mr. Hashi had been a driver for the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) since 1997 and leaves behind a wife and three sons.

“Our deepest condolences go out to the families and colleagues of our two staff members who died in the explosion,” Mr. Bowden said in a news release issued in Nairobi, where his office is based.

“Right now our immediate concern is for the well-being and support of the families of the victims and staff members who have survived this trauma. Given the extremely violent and targeted nature of the attack, many are severely shaken and mourning the loss of their colleagues,” he added.

Six other staff members were injured, and two of them with serious injuries were evacuated to Djibouti for immediate medical attention. Their condition is now stable.

Several buildings in the UNDP compound – which also houses other agencies such as Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), UNOPS, UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS), the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS and the Resident Coordinator’s Office – suffered significant damage.

There were 74 international and almost 200 national UN staff working in Hargeisa at the time of the attack, which was condemned by both Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council.

“The Secretary-General deplores these outrageous acts of violence deliberately targeting innocent civilians and United Nations personnel who work tirelessly to alleviate the dire suffering of Somali citizens,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said in a statement yesterday.

The Security Council, in a statement read out today by Zhang Yesui of China, which holds the Council’s presidency for October, strongly condemned the “heinous” attacks and underlined the need to bring those responsible to justice.

Somalia has been beset by fighting and massive humanitarian suffering for the past two decades but the violence has flared anew this year, particularly in and around the capital, Mogadishu, and caused widespread displacement. The country has not had a functioning national government since 1991.

“While Somalia is one of the most dangerous places in the world for aid workers, Hargeisa has been relatively stable and consequently many United Nations staff were stationed there,” said Mr. Bowden.

“It’s because of the stability that the UN has been able to help move forward the reconstruction process, constructing schools, drilling boreholes, and building on the peace which has been achieved there since 1998,” he added.

UN agencies are working in Hargeisa and the northwest regions with the local government and communities to deliver much needed services such as water and health care. They are also providing assistance for returnees, helping build local institutions and responding to the drought.

 

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