Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has condemned this morning’s attack on the United Nations building in Abuja, in which a number of people have been killed or wounded, and said he is dispatching top officials to the Nigerian capital to respond to the emergency.
The compound in Abuja, a series of buildings that house the offices of 26 UN humanitarian and development agencies, was struck by a car bomb at around 11 a.m. local time. Hundreds of UN staff members were working in the compound at the time of the attack.
“This was an assault on those who devote their lives to helping others,” Mr. Ban told reporters at UN Headquarters in New York. “We condemn this terrible act, utterly.”
Mr. Ban said that the UN did not yet have precise casualty figures but “they are likely to be considerable,” adding that a number of people are dead and many more are wounded.
“On this very sad occasion, I extend my deepest sympathies to the victims and their families,” he said. “The UN will undertake every possible effort to assist them during this difficult time.”
Nigerian and international search and rescue teams have mobilized and are moving the wounded to hospitals and providing emergency aid.
Mr. Ban announced that he is dispatching Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro to Nigeria immediately and mobilizing the UN system to respond to the emergency. She will be accompanied by the Under-Secretary-General for Safety and Security, Gregory Starr, and meet with Nigerian authorities on arrival in Abuja.
UN spokesperson Farhan Haq told reporters that there was no previous threat against the UN compound, which had barriers around it to protect against attack.
“It is regarded as a well-defended building and we will need to investigate how it was that the attackers managed to get past different levels of protection so that they could cause the damage that they did,” he said.
The Secretary-General added that he will also call the Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan, soon to discuss the attack. The Security Council observed a minute’s silence before the start of a meeting today on UN peacekeeping operations, during which individual delegations all voiced their strong condemnation of the attack.
In a later press statement voicing sympathy for the victims of the “heinous crime,” the Council reaffirmed that “terrorism in all its forms and manifestations is criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of its motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed.”
The heads of several UN agencies deplored today’s bombing, including the Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Helen Clark, who voiced deep sadness at the loss of UN personnel and Nigerian citizens killed in the attack.
“These are unarmed civilians who have dedicated their lives to helping the people of Nigeria,” she said. Miss Clark added that the UN Country Team is working closely with national authorities to account for those still missing.
The Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Anthony Lake, noted that the loss of UN colleagues comes exactly one week after the Organization commemorated the bravery of those working to save lives around the globe during the annual World Humanitarian Day.
“This tragic event should remind us all of the courage of so many other aid workers who face similar dangers and who are doing so much for so many around the world,” he said.
That sentiment was echoed in a statement issued by the UN Staff Union, which called on the Nigerian authorities to do their utmost to apprehend those responsible. “This event, once again, serves as a tragic reminder of the innumerable risks undertaken daily by United Nations personnel across the globe,” it said in a statement.
UN flags will be flown at half-mast for three days starting tomorrow.