More terrible news from Afghanistan. A Taliban suicide attack on a compound housing UN employees and other international staff has killed nine people, six of whom worked for the UN mission in Afghanistan. According to the BBC, “the Taliban spokesman said they had threatened to target anyone working on the Afghan run-off presidential election between incumbent Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah.”
This is obviously a huge tragedy for the United Nations. It is also part of a larger trend in which the United Nations has increasingly come under attack from insurgent groups and terrorists–in Afghanistan and beyond. Since 2006, the relative number of attacks per aid worker in the field increased by 61%. In 2008, more UN aid workers were killed in the field than UN peacekeepers.
Not long ago, the blue flag was a shield for humanitarian workers. Today, it is makes them a target. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of those affected by today’s tragedy.
UPDATE: More details are emerging about today’s attack. From Bloomberg:
At least five of the dead worked for the United Nations, UN spokesman Aleem Siddique said by telephone from Kabul, with the identity of the sixth victim still to be established. Gunmen opened fire outside the main gate to the Bakhtar Guesthouse at about 6:30 a.m. local time today and forced their way inside, killing UN workers as they “were running to escape,” Siddique said. Afghan security forces killed the three gunmen, he said. One of the UN employees who died was an American, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul said in a statement. The UN isn’t announcing the nationalities of the others until their families have been notified.
I condemn in the strongest terms the brutal and cowardly attack in Kabul today on United Nations workers and members of the Afghan National Security Forces. An American citizen was among those who lost their lives. My heartfelt condolences and sympathies go out to the families and friends of all of the victims. The United Nations has been doing vital work for the Afghan people for more than fifty years. The United States strongly supports the leadership and staff of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan as they work bravely each day under incredibly difficult circumstances, and we are grateful to the Afghan National Security Forces for their commitment and sacrifice. The international community stands together in its commitment to defeat those extremists seeking to halt democratic progress in Afghanistan. The United States stands firmly with the people of Afghanistan as they prepare for the November 7 presidential runoff elections.
UPDATE II: A chilling video of the aftermath from CBS News.