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Pakistan: Ban ‘dismayed’ by terrorist attack killing two UN staff members

Pakistan: Ban ‘dismayed’ by terrorist attack killing two UN staff members

UNHCR staff in Geneva hold a minute's silence for their slain colleague, Aleksandar Vorkapic
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today expressed “dismay” today at the rising death toll from yesterday’s suicide bombing of a hotel in north-west Pakistan, which killed two United Nations staff members, and repeated his strong condemnation of the terrorist attack.

According to media reports, as many as 18 people died in the truck bombing that destroyed the Pearl Continental Hotel in Peshawar, the capital of the troubled North West Frontier Province (NWFP), on Tuesday night.

In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Mr. Ban reiterated “his strong condemnation of this brutal act of terror against innocent people, many of whom were in Peshawar to carry out humanitarian work.”

Among the dead was Aleksandar Vorkapic, a Serb national who leaves behind a wife and three children, worked for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Mr. Vorkapic, who was on his first emergency mission, “gave his life serving others,” said UNHCR chief António Guterres. “All of us at UNHCR are devastated by this tragedy and we convey our deepest condolences to his family in Belgrade.”

Also killed in the blast was the Chief of Education in Pakistan of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Perseveranda So, from the Philippines, who had been with the agency since 1994.

Ms. So, known as Persy to her workmates, was in Peshawar, “a dangerous and difficult environment, helping implement programmes to assist girls in gaining access to education they so desperately need,” said UNICEF Executive Director, Ann M. Veneman. “She will be greatly missed by her colleagues.”

Another four UN staff members – two from the UN World Food Programme (WFP), one from the UN World Health Organization (WHO) and one from UNICEF – were among those injured in the attack, UN spokesperson Marie Okabe told reporters.

The two WFP staff members are receiving treatment in an Islamabad hospital. “Our hearts and thoughts are with those suffering from this tragic and brutal attack, including both WFP’s staff and UN colleagues with whom we’ve worked side by side, around the clock, to bring life-saving assistance to millions,” said the agency’s Executive Director, Josette Sheeran.

A number of Pakistani nationals supporting UN programmes were also killed and injured, Ms. Okabe said, as the search for victims of the blast continues.

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) is “deeply saddened to learn that three colleagues supporting our humanitarian work were among those killed,” according to a statement from the agency’s Representative in Pakistan, Daniel B. Baker.

The staff of UNFPA extended its condolences to the families of Mohammad Maskeen, Mohammad Tahir and Mohammad Fawad and “to all the victims of this heinous act.”

Mr. Vorkapic was part of an emergency UNHCR team recently sent to Pakistan to assist with the current displacement crisis in NWFP, with over 2 million people fleeing the conflict between Government forces and militants in the Swat district.

“The whole UN community feels shock and dismay on the tragic deaths and injuries,” said Fikret Akcura, the UN Resident Coordinator in Pakistan, in a statement strongly condemning the attack.

“We are determined to continue our humanitarian support to over two millions Pakistani citizens who have been affected by the ongoing displacement crises,” said Mr. Akcura, extending his “deepest condolences to the families of the deceased and pray for the speedy recovery of all those who have been injured.”