The United Nations in Afghanistan remembers fallen colleagues

UNAMA staff mourn those killed in Mazar-i-Sharif

A memorial service was held in Afghanistan in early April in honour of the United Nations staff members who were killed when angry protestors attacked the UN office in the northern part of the country. They were protesting the burning of the Koran by an obscure US pastor.

Radmilla Suleymanova reports.

In a solemn ceremony held in Kabul, UN staff paid tribute to their fallen colleagues.

Seven United Nations staff members were killed on April 1st when the UN office in the northern part of Afghanistan was stormed by protesters. Three UN international staff- one Swedish, one Norwegian and one Romanian and four Nepalese international security guards were killed.

Violent protests erupted through out the Central Asian country after a copy of the Koran was burned in the United States. The protests escalated and turned violent, with some of the protestors armed.

UNAMA, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan office in Mazir-i-Sharif, was attacked and set ablaze.

Head of UNAMA Staffan de Mistura at the memorial service said he spoke to the families of those who were killed.

“I spoke with them and I explained how sorry we are, how terribly devastated we are. I tried to describe the last moments in order to reassure them that it was not too painful. And when I ended the husband said that 'I have a favour to ask you.” He told me “we have all decided to ask you, please, please don’t abandon Afghanistan.”

De Mistura said that he didn’t think the United Nations was a direct target. He said that a crowd of about 3,000 had initially marched to the United States Consulate. When it was closed, they went to the UN building.

Expressing condolences on behalf of Afghan president Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan’s Security Advisor Dr. Rangin Dadfar Spanta, also attended the memorial in Kabul.

“It is our sincere hope that the tragic event at Mazar-i-Sharif should not discourage international resolve, solidarity and commitment to the Afghan people. The Afghan men, women and children have been paying the heaviest price during the last three decades. They should not be further punished for the crimes of a handful of individuals who have taken hostage their religion and nation.”

He said that the government would make sure to enforce the law.

“Let me conclude by reiterating our absolute commitment and determination to bring to just those who are responsible for this heinous crime.”

This incident comes at a time when international forces prepare for a security transition to Afghan security forces in some provinces of the country.

The past few days have been deadly for the United Nations. A UN staff member was killed in Côte d’Ivoire by a stray bullet. And a UN plane crashed in the Democratic Republic of Congo, killing 34. Only one person survived.

The attack in Afghanistan is the third direct attack on UN personnel in Afghanistan in the past year and a half. In 2009, 11 UN staff people were killed by Taliban suicide bombers in Kabul.

Radmilla Suleymanova, United Nations

Duration: 3’09″

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