United Nations staff members gathered today to pay tribute to the 17 colleagues killed two years ago in a terrorist attack at the world body’s offices in the Algerian capital.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon took part in a wreath-laying ceremony at UN Headquarters in New York, having earlier told staff that the attack in Algiers on 11 December 2007 “has caused suffering and grief that will never go away.”
He said that no cause could “ever justify wanton killing and destruction” and stressed that it is “by persevering in the face of such adversity that we demonstrate yet again the greatest strength of the United Nations: the commitment of our staff.”
Seventeen staff were killed and 40 others were injured when a car bomb destroyed the offices of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and damaged those of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Just 20 minutes before that attack, terrorists also struck the Algerian Constitutional Court, killing at least 14 people there.
“Our colleagues who died were working on the full spectrum of UN issues, from food security to human rights and industrial development,” Mr. Ban said. “In every case, they were devoted to helping the people of Algeria to build better lives for themselves and their children. I salute them, as well as those who are continuing their work with dedication and professionalism.”
The Secretary-General said the Algiers bombing, as well as the Canal Hotel bombing in Baghdad in 2003 and this year’s attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan, underlined that the UN was now a target of terrorist groups.
“This is rightfully a cause of great concern to all United Nations staff. I am working with the Department of Safety and Security (DSS) and with Member States to ensure that you have the safest conditions possible in which to live and to carry out your important work.”
During today’s ceremony at UN Headquarters, a moment of silence was observed and the names of the 17 victims were read out.
The staff members killed included seven UNDP personnel: Saadia Boucelham, Hind Boukroufa, Samia Hammoutene, Chadli Hamza, Mohamed Khelladi, Djamal Rezzoug, all of Algeria, and Steven Olejas of Denmark.
Three Algerian staff members for the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) died – Mustapha Benbara, Kamel Sait and Adnane Souilah, as well as two Algerian nationals who worked for UNHCR: Karim Bentebal and Nabil Slimani.
Babacar Ndiaye of Senegal, who worked for DSS, and the Philippines’ Gene Nunez Luna Maria, who worked for the World Food Programme (WFP), were also killed.
The other victims, all Algerian, were: Hakim Si Larbi of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS); Mohamed Lasli, of the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), and Abderrahim Hanniche of the International Labour Organization (ILO).