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Ban Ki-moon Dispatches Top Aides To Algiers

Deploring deadly attacks, Ban Ki-moon dispatches top aides to Algiers

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has led a chorus of United Nations condemnation of today's terrorist attacks in Algiers that have reportedly killed dozens of people, including a number of UN staff members, and he has dispatched several top aides to the Algerian capital to investigate the bombings.

"Words cannot express my sense of shock, outrage and anger at the terrorist attack on the United Nations mission in Algiers today," Mr. Ban said in a statement issued in Bali, Indonesia, where he is currently travelling.

According to the UN, at approximately 10:30 in the morning in Algiers, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) office collapsed following an explosion, which local authorities have indicated was caused by a car bomb. Another car bomb exploded near the country's Constitutional Court. No one has so far claimed responsibility.

"This was an abjectly cowardly strike against civilian officials serving humanity's highest ideals under the UN banner - base, indecent and unjustifiable by even the most barbarous political standard," Mr. Ban stated.

The Secretary-General has instructed senior advisers from his Executive Office, UNDP and the UN Department of Safety and Security to proceed to Algiers immediately. "We will take every measure to ensure the safety of our staff, in Algeria and elsewhere, beginning with an immediate review of our security precautions and policies," Mr. Ban pledged in a letter to UN staff in the wake of the attacks.

Also reacting to today's tragedy, the Security Council underlined the need to bring those responsible for the attacks to justice. In a statement read out by Ambassador Marcello Spatafora of Italy, which holds the Council's rotating presidency for this month, the 15-member body urged all States to cooperate with the Algerian authorities in this regard.

A spokesperson for the UN said that while the Organization could not provide any figures of fatalities until it had confirmed proof of deaths and the families had been informed, preliminary information indicates there may be five deaths.

The UN is checking with hospitals, examining the site of the blast and trying to obtain any proof of deaths, UN spokesperson Marie Okabe told reporters in New York, noting that rescue efforts are also continuing.

The UN is trying to account for 14 people, she added. The world body has a total of 40 international staff presently in Algeria, including 19 international staff based there and an additional 21 that are there temporarily, as well as about 115 local UN staff in the capital.

The UNDP office housed staff from UNDP, the World Food Programme (WFP), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the Department of Safety and Security. The offices of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), located across the street, also sustained damage.

UNHCR chief António Guterres expressed his shock and outrage, calling the bombings "totally abhorrent."

The agency said a survey of its staff in Algiers showed that one of its drivers was killed, one was missing and all others were accounted for - although several suffered injuries from the blast that occurred in a street separating the main UN office from UNHCR's compound.

"The UN is an entity that works for world peace, an entity that tries to be an honest broker, especially when dealing with the humanitarian needs of refugees and other victims of violence and persecution," Mr. Guterres said. "This makes this type of attack even more absurd."

UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis said in a statement that "it is an outrage that extremists do not hold human life to be sacred, and that humanitarian and aid workers are apparently amongst the casualties."

Also speaking out, General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim expressed his grave concern that UN offices and staff were once again the deliberate targets of terror attacks. A bomb destroyed the world body's Baghdad headquarters in August 2003, killing 22 people, including top envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello.

Today's attack "clearly demonstrates that terrorism is a continuous and global challenge that knows no boundaries," Mr. Kerim said in a statement issued by his spokesperson.

The flags at UN Headquarters in New York and at duty stations around the world will be flown at half mast through Wednesday.


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