Afghanistan: UNHCR scales down activities in south-east after NGO staff murders
UNHCR is scaling down its activities in south-eastern Afghanistan following the killing of two Afghan aid workers employed by a partner organisation in the region. Mohammad Idrees Sadiq, a field officer for the German NGO Malteser Hilfsdienst, was killed on the spot when unknown gunmen opened fire on his car on Tuesday afternoon. His driver, 19-year-old Emal Abdul Samad, was taken to a hospital in Bagram and died a few hours later. The incident occurred while the two were travelling on the road from Zurmat to Gardez in Paktia province. The UN refugee agency is deeply saddened by the two deaths, and strongly condemns these murders.
Malteser has been responsible for carrying out all UNHCR's income generation and vocational training projects in south-eastern Afghanistan since early 2003. The NGO has now suspended its work in the region. UNHCR itself has put all staff travel in the south-east on hold while it reviews the situation. The office is working closely with local groups and village elders to distribute emergency relief supplies to some 20,000 people recently arrived from Pakistan's South Waziristan region.
More than half a million people have returned to Afghanistan since the beginning of the year - over 280,000 from Iran, and more than 250,000 from Pakistan. Since UNHCR started its voluntary repatriation exercise after the fall of the Taliban in 2002, over three million Afghans have come back to their homeland.
In the past twelve months, aid workers have been operating under increasingly difficult conditions in some parts of the country. More than thirty humanitarian staff have been murdered in Afghanistan since early 2003. We are deeply concerned about this rise in violence against aid workers, and the impact this has on humanitarian work in the country.