With wreath-laying ceremony, UN staff mourn colleagues killed in line of duty

6 April 2011

United Nations staff, led by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, today mourned the loss of at least 40 of their colleagues who perished in the line of duty over the past week with a wreath-laying ceremony at the world body’s Headquarters in New York.

Since last Wednesday, the UN has lost staff in Haiti, Côte d’Ivoire, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Darfur region of Sudan.

“The roster of the fallen, in recent days, has been shocking and profoundly sad,” Mr. Ban said at the ceremony, which also included a moment of silence. “We stand in solidarity with their friends and families, united in sorrow, but united also in our mission.

“Like those who have gone before, they gave their lives to the most noble of causes: helping those in need, working for peace,” said the Secretary-General.

On 30 March, Captain Sultan Al Shraah of Jordan, a member of the police contingent of the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), was killed on patrol in the capital, Port-au-Prince.

The next day, Zahra Abidi of Sweden died after being hit by a stray bullet in Abidjan, the strife-torn commercial capital of Côte d’Ivoire. She was an information analyst with the UN mission in the West African nation, known as UNOCI.

Last Friday, three international staff and four international security guards serving with the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) were slain in Mazar-i-Sharif when a crowd of around 3,000 people protesting against the burning of a Koran in the United States attacked the UN offices in the northern city.

The three staff members killed were Joakim Dungel, a human rights officer from Sweden; Filaret Motco, a political affairs officer from Romania; and Lieutenant Colonel Siri Skare, a military adviser from Norway.

The four Nepalese Gurkhas who were guarding the UN centre and were also killed were Dil Prasad Gurung, Chhabi Lal Purja Pun, Narayan Bahadur Thapa Magar and Min Bahadur Thapa.

Then on Monday, a UN aircraft – carrying both UN and non-UN personnel – crashed on landing in the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, killing 32 people on board. One passenger survived the crash and remains in hospital, according to the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC (MONUSCO).

And just yesterday, the joint UN-African Union mission in Darfur (UNAMID) reported that one of its peacekeepers was killed after being abducted by armed men in the north of the war-wracked Sudanese region.

In the wake of these recent tragedies, Mr. Ban has instructed his senior managers to undertake an immediate review of security needs and policies.

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