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November 9, 11

NEWS / UN refugee chief pays tribute to fallen colleagues during visit to Afghanistan

9 November 2011 –
The United Nations refugee chief was in Kandahar today where he paid his respects to three colleagues killed there recently in an attack, and pledged his agency’s continued commitment to helping vulnerable Afghans.

“UNHCR [the UN High Commissioner for Refugees] has a strictly humanitarian and non-political mandate; it is here to help Afghan refugees and also Afghans who have been internally displaced within their own country,” stressed António Guterres.

He extended condolences to the families of the three staff members killed when suicide bombers and gunmen carried out an attack near the world body’s compound in Kandahar on 31 October –Salah Mohammad, 39; Abdul Shakoor, 57; and Nasratallah, 31. Two other Afghan staff members were also injured.

“We are facing a tragedy for UNHCR and for the families of our dead and wounded colleagues,” Mr. Guterres said as he toured the damaged compound. But he added that the agency was “committed to continuing to help Afghan people who need our assistance.”

He praised the courage and determination of UNHCR staff in Kandahar. “Even in these very difficult circumstances, there was no interruption in UNHCR’s operations, and support to our beneficiaries was fully maintained,” he said.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the Security Council, the President of the General Assembly and the UN Staff Union all spoke out last week against the attack, and called on the Afghan authorities to bring those responsible to justice and to take all possible steps to protect UN personnel and premises.

An investigation into the attack is under way, according to UNHCR, which has been working in Afghanistan since the 1980s. Over this period it has facilitated the return of millions of refugees and assisted other forcibly displaced persons inside the country.

The High Commissioner, who is on a two-day trip to Afghanistan, is expected to discuss security concerns with Afghanistan’s First Vice-President Mohammad Qasim Fahim.




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