Three employees of the United Nations refugee agency were killed and two others wounded today when suicide bombers and gunmen carried out an attack near the world body’s compound in southern Afghanistan.
The “organized” attack happened at around 6 a.m. local time in Kandahar, according to a statement issued by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
A car bomb was exploded at the gate of a local non-governmental organization (NGO) that shares a common wall with the UNHCR compound. When the wall collapsed, suicide attackers entered the UN premises. Three UN security guards were killed and two others were wounded. Two security contractors were killed as well.
“This is a tragedy for UNHCR and for the families of the dead and wounded. It also underscores the great risks for humanitarian workers in Afghanistan,” said High Commissioner António Guterres.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon emphasized that the work carried out by the UN and international aid workers is purely humanitarian. “Its sole purpose is to improve the daily lives of the country’s people,” he told reporters in New York.
UNHCR has been working in Afghanistan since the 1980s, and over this period it has facilitated the return of millions of refugees and assisted other forcibly displaced persons inside the country.
The agency said it is seeking “a fuller understanding” of the circumstances of the attack. “Nevertheless, the fact remains that people working for us have been wounded and killed and the functioning of our Kandahar office seriously disrupted,” it stated.
Members of the Security Council condemned the attack “in the strongest terms,” in a statement read out to the press by Ambassador U. Joy Ogwu of Nigeria, which holds the rotating Council presidency this month.
The 15-member body also called on the Afghan authorities to bring those responsible to justice and to take all possible steps to protect UN personnel and premises.
Also condemning the attack, the President of the General Assembly, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, said such acts against humanitarian workers, civilians and law enforcement officials are reprehensible. “Those responsible must be brought to justice and made to face the full weight of the law,” his spokesperson said in a statement.
The UN Staff Union also voiced outrage, saying that today’s incident, along with a string of attacks in the country over the past couple of years, confirms Afghanistan as one of the most dangerous places for UN staff.
“In light of today’s attack, the Staff Union once again urges the Secretary-General to reconsider the deployment of staff in Afghanistan and to carry out a comprehensive review of the security situation in the country,” it said in a news release.