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UN to step up staff security after recent killing

[Afghanistan] Auxiliary police in action in Afghanistan's restive south. Upwards of 20,000 men are envisioned for the force [Date picture taken: 02/15/2007]
(Freshta Dunya/UNAMA)

The killing of a United Nations driver on Tuesday is the latest in a spate of attacks and kidnappings by insurgents deliberately targeting aid workers and journalists in Afghanistan, local and international observers say.

According to UN officials, Sadequllah, 38, was shot dead on his way to work in the southern province of Kandahar by unidentified men on a motorbike. Police are now looking for the assassins.

“I am greatly saddened by his death, which is a loss to all of us. I have sent my condolences to his family,” read a statement by Tom Koenigs, the UN’s special enjoy for Afghanistan.

Sadequllah had been working as a driver for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) since 1992. He leaves behind a widow and eight children.

Afghanistan’s volatile southern provinces have been a matter of constant concern for the UN and other humanitarian organisations.

On 4 April, two French citizens and three Afghans working for a medical aid organisation were kidnapped by armed men. A Taliban spokesman reportedly claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.

French officials have said that one female aid worker has been released by the Taliban. The Taliban have said that the remaining four aid workers will be released only if France withdraws all of its more than 1,000 soldiers from Afghanistan.

''Not only have suicide and roadside attacks increased in the southern provinces, but recently insurgents have also used another dirty tactic and that is the abduction of aid workers.''

On 17 April, four Nepalese men contracted by the UN to do security work in Kandahar and their Afghan driver died in a roadside explosion.

In early May, Taliban insurgents abducted Italian journalist Daniele Mastrogiacomo, his Afghan translator Ajmal Naqshbandi and his driver Saeed Agha in the volatile province of Helmand, also in the south of the country.

On 18 May, Mastrogiacomo was released in a deal that also saw the release of five Taliban prisoners held by the Afghan government. But both his Afghan colleagues were decapitated by insurgents, government officials said.

Taliban accused of war crimes

Afghan and international rights organisations have accused the Taliban of war crimes by deliberately targeting civilians in their fight against Afghan and international forces.

A spokesman for the UN’s Assistance Mission for Afghanistan (UNAMA) said it was still unclear whether a terrorist motive was behind the UNHCR driver’s assassination.

“Obviously, we face more threats now than any time in the past,” said an Afghani UN staff member in Kandahar on condition of anonymity.

“Not only have suicide and roadside attacks increased in the southern provinces, but recently insurgents have also used another dirty tactic and that is the abduction of aid workers,” added the source.

Adrian Edwards, the UN spokesman in Afghanistan, told IRIN in Kabul that “kidnapping is one of our current concerns in the southern provinces, and we constantly assess our staffs’ safety”.

Despite security challenges, UN officials say they will continue with their aid and development activities in all regions of war-ravaged Afghanistan to alleviate humanitarian hardships.

Given the Afghan government’s limited capacity to protect the UN and other humanitarian agencies, UN spokesman Edwards said: “We are bringing security experts through UNDSS [UN Department of Safety and Security] to fill this gap.”


see also
PAKISTAN: Islamic extremists attack aid workers

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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