UNHCR mourns the death of a colleague from attack in south Sudan

UNHCR staff worldwide are mourning the death of a colleague who died overnight in Nairobi from injuries he received two weeks ago in an attack in south Sudan on one of the refugee agency's compounds.

Staff at UNHCR's headquarters in Geneva and around the world marked a minute of silence on Wednesday to pay tribute to their colleague Nabil Bahjat Abdulla, who died from wounds suffered during an attack on the agency's compound in Yei, south Sudan.   © UNHCR/S.Hopper

GENEVA Mar 29 (UNHCR) - UNHCR staff around the world observed a minute of silence today in tribute to a colleague who died overnight in Nairobi after suffering severe wounds two weeks ago in an attack on the refugee agency's compound in Yei, south Sudan.

Addressing staff at the organisation's headquarters in Geneva, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres expressed UNHCR's deep sadness over the death of Nabil Bahjat Abdulla, 48, on Tuesday night in a Nairobi hospital.

"For two weeks Nabil fought a courageous battle between life and death, and sadly it was a battle which he lost. And we have lost an excellent and brave colleague. "

"So once again, the humanitarian community is mourning a friend and colleague who died trying to help others in a place that has already seen far too much sadness and violence," Mr Guterres said. "All of us at UNHCR mourn Nabil's death and we extend our deepest condolences to his family. We pay tribute to his life, and his sacrifice will never be forgotten."

The High Commissioner asked that UNHCR flags be flown at half-mast and a minute's silence be observed in all offices worldwide at midday Wednesday. UNHCR works in 116 countries, often in difficult and dangerous situations.

Mr. Bahjat Abdulla, who leaves behind a wife and four children, was a UNHCR logistics officer from Baghdad. He joined the refugee agency in Iraq in 1991 and was assigned last October to UNHCR's south Sudan operation, which is preparing for the return of hundreds of thousands of refugees from neighbouring countries.

Nabil Bahjat Abdulla.  © UNHCR/U.Reungsuwan

He suffered serious wounds in a March 15 night-time attack on the agency's compound in Yei, south Sudan, that left one guard dead and another wounded. One of the attackers was also killed. Six other UNHCR international staff in the compound at the time escaped injury.

Mr. Bahjat Abdulla and the wounded guard were evacuated first to a clinic in the regional centre of Juba, then to a hospital Nairobi. The guard is recovering from his wounds.

Twenty-two UNHCR staff have been killed in the line of duty since 1990, and many more wounded.