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UNHCR worker killed, one missing in Guinea attack

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UNHCR worker killed, one missing in Guinea attack

17 September 2000

A UNHCR staff member was killed Sunday and another was reported missing following a raid by unknown gunmen in the south-eastern Guinea town of Macenta, near the border with Liberia. He was the fourth UNHCR staff member murdered in less than two weeks.

UNHCR officials in the Guinean capital, Conakry, said the slain staff member had contacted them at 6 a.m. Sunday to report that armed men had attacked and burned Macenta's military garrison at 4:30 a.m. He remained in contact until approximately 8 a.m., when UNHCR Conakry lost contact. Local UNHCR staff were later sent to his house, where they found his body. He had apparently been shot by the retreating gunmen. His house had been burned, as well as a UNHCR vehicle parked outside. Witnesses said there were several bodies in the streets of the town. The identity of the victim is being withheld pending notification of next of kin.

Witnesses also reported that UNHCR staff member Sapeu Laurence Djeya, a Côte d'Ivoire national, had been abducted by the attackers. UNHCR Deputy High Commissioner Frederick Barton issued an urgent appeal to governments in the region as well as the international community to join in the effort to obtain the release of Ms. Djeya.

"Yet another humanitarian has been savagely killed trying to help refugees," said Barton. "We haven't even buried our three other colleagues murdered in West Timor ten days ago, and now we have lost another friend and co-worker. Once again, our hearts go out to the family and friends of the victim."

It was unclear who was responsible for the raid on Macenta, about 70 kms east of Guéckédou along the south-eastern border with Liberia. Guinea hosts more than 460,000 refugees - 330,000 of them Sierra Leonean and 126,000 Liberians. Most of the refugees in the Macenta area are Liberian. There have been some Sierra Leonean refugees who have been fleeing into the area, following recent attacks by Sierra Leonean rebels.

On September 1, some 50 people were reported killed in a rebel attack at Massadou village, about 25 kms south-east of Macenta. The government said the attack at Massadou was carried out by gunmen from Liberia. Liberia has accused Guinea of harbouring rebels who crossed into northern Liberia in July and have been fighting government foces there ever since.

It was the second lethal attack on UNHCR staff in nearly two weeks. On September 6, East Timorese militiamen in West Timor attacked the UNHCR office in the border town of Atambua, killing three staff members. It was the worst ever attack on UNHCR.