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Attack on UNHCR compound in south Sudan

Briefing notes

Attack on UNHCR compound in south Sudan

17 March 2006

A UNHCR staff member and a local guard severely wounded in an attack Wednesday night on our compound in Yei, South Sudan, are now in a stable condition in a Nairobi hospital after being evacuated by air yesterday from South Sudan's capital, Juba.

During the attack by two armed intruders, one local guard and one intruder were killed. Six other UNHCR international staff were in the compound at the time of the attack but were uninjured and are safe.

The UNHCR staff member evacuated - an Iraqi national - was shot three times in the abdomen during the attack and underwent surgery last night after arrival in Nairobi. He had previously undergone surgery in Juba to stabilise his condition before being flown to Nairobi. We are expecting a fuller assessment of his situation later in the day. He is in intensive care, where his condition was reported as stable this morning.

The guard who was also evacuated was shot in the leg during the attack and will require surgery. He is in a stable condition and his life is not in danger.

High Commissioner António Guterres is sending a team from our Emergency and Security Service to south Sudan to assess the situation on the ground, as well as our Assistant High Commissioner for Operations, Judy Cheng-Hopkins, and the director of our Sudan-Chad operations, Jean-Marie Fakhouri. UNHCR non-essential staff in Yei are travelling to Nairobi today for a debriefing on the incident.

UNHCR established a presence in Yei in 2004 to prepare for the return of South Sudanese refugees from the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Uganda to the West Equatoria region. The first repatriation movement from the DRC - scheduled for next week - has now been suspended while a review of the situation in Yei is being conducted.

Sudan's 21-year civil war in the south came to an end in January 2005 after the signing of peace accords. UNHCR and other agencies had been working in war-devastated South Sudan before the accords were signed in preparation for the return of refugees. There are some 350,000 refugees from South Sudan in neighbouring countries, including 13,300 in DRC, and some 4 million people displaced within Sudan.