UN condemns ‘horrific’ attack that killed four UNICEF staff in Somalia

Children collect rubbish in a dust storm in the Shabelle IDP settlement in Garowe, Somalia.
UNICEF/Kate Holt
Children collect rubbish in a dust storm in the Shabelle IDP settlement in Garowe, Somalia.

UN condemns ‘horrific’ attack that killed four UNICEF staff in Somalia

The United Nations has strongly condemned this morning’s attack on a UN vehicle in north-eastern Somalia, which killed four UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) workers and seriously injured four others when a roadside bomb exploded alongside the minibus in which they were riding.

“All of us at UNICEF are deeply saddened, and deeply angered,” Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive-Director, said in a statement to the press.

At about 8:00 this morning, a suspected IED (improvised explosive device) targeted a UN vehicle in Garowe, Puntland, Somalia. A UNICEF statement said that the IED attack occurred when the staffs were travelling from their guest house to the office, normally a three-minute drive. Emergency response operations are ongoing.

“The horrific attack on our UNICEF colleagues today in northern Somalia is an assault not only on them but on the people they served. Our immediate thoughts are with the families of the four staff members who were killed and with those who were injured,” Mr. Lake added.

“Our colleagues dedicated their lives to working for the children of Somalia. They are not victims. They and those who were wounded are heroes. We mourn their loss and hope for the full recovery of the injured,” he said.

In a statement issued by his spokesperson in New York, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon similarly voiced his outrage at the attack which, he said, would “not erode the commitment of the whole United Nations family to supporting the people and Government of Somalia in rebuilding peace and prosperity in their country.”

In addition, Mr. Ban condemned in the “strongest terms” the attack against UN staff who were “working to provide humanitarian and development assistance to the people of Somalia, including the country’s children, many of whom are in desperate need.”

“Such barbaric attacks will not diminish the United Nations’ resolve to continue working for the cause of peace in the country.”

At the same time, the UN Security Council also deplored the “appalling” attack for which it blamed the Islamist extremist group Al Shabaab.

The members reaffirmed the Council’s stance condemning terrorism “in all its forms and manifestations” as one of the most serious threats to international peace and security and branding all terrorist acts as “criminal and unjustifiable regardless of their motivation.”

“This is truly a terrible, terrible day for UNICEF, and indeed for all those for whom these colleagues were working in the country,” said Edward Carwardine, Deputy Director of Communications at UNICEF in an interview with UN Radio.

He said that UNICEF has been in Somalia since 1972 and its programmes are now focused particularly on areas such as water, education, child health nutrition and the protection of children. The agency, he said “is working for some of the most vulnerable children and families in that part of the country.”

And despite today’s tragedy, Mr. Carwardine said, “UNICEF’s ongoing work for these most vulnerable children is our priority and we are committed to continuing that as best we can.”

Earlier this morning, the UN Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) also condemned the attack calling it a “complete disregard for the lives of people working on the humanitarian and development needs of the people of Somalia is despicable.”

“I am shocked and horrified by what took place today in Garowe,” Nicholas Kay, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General (SRSG) for Somalia and head of the UN mission (UNSOM) there said in a statement.

“Our UN colleagues are saddened but unified in the face of this tragedy. The United Nations remains determined to stand by the people of Somalia. My deepest sympathies and thoughts are with the friends and families of all those who lost their lives, and those injured and affected,” Mr. Kay said.