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Iraq: An incomprehensible and senseless act of violence

Briefing notes

Iraq: An incomprehensible and senseless act of violence

22 August 2003

High Commissioner Rudd Lubbers is cutting short his Africa mission and returning to Geneva on Sunday to be with UNHCR staff, many of whom are traumatised by the terror attack in Baghdad. Assistant High Commissioner Kamel Morjane has curtailed his leave and is arriving in Geneva today.

In Iraq, UNHCR has sharply reduced the number of international staff in Baghdad and Basra and other security measures are under consideration. All convoy movements are on hold until further notice.

UNHCR staff continue to be in a state of shock in the wake of the Baghdad terrorist attack, which we see as an incomprehensible and senseless act of violence. Our feelings go to the loved ones of those killed and injured in the blast. We mourn the loss of Sergio Vieira de Mello, a colleague of 25 years. We also grieve for Arthur C. Helton, Program Director of Peace and Conflict at the Council of Foreign Relations, a writer on refugee issues and a long-time ally and friend of UNHCR. Severely injured in the blast was Professor Gil Loescher of the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London - another friend of UNHCR. Both just happened to be in the UN Baghdad building to see Mr. Vieira de Mello when the attack occurred.

We have also received a message from our Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie who said: "I am shocked and saddened by the senseless act of terror targeting the United Nations staff in Baghdad. For the United Nations family, 19 August was a black Tuesday - perhaps the darkest moment in the UN's recent history. My feelings go to the colleagues, families and loved ones of those who lost their lives in the bombing."