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UNHCR mourns loss of staff member killed in Pakistan bombing

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UNHCR mourns loss of staff member killed in Pakistan bombing

10 June 2009 Also available in:

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

GENEVA - UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres today led staff worldwide in mourning a UNHCR colleague, Aleksandar Vorkapic, who was killed Tuesday night in the bombing of a hotel in Peshawar, Pakistan.

"Aleksandar Vorkapic had volunteered for UNHCR's emergency roster and was deployed last month along with a team of other specialists to help the hundreds of thousands of civilians recently displaced in north-west Pakistan," Guterres said at UNHCR headquarters in Geneva. "He was on his first emergency mission and he gave his life serving others. All of us at UNHCR are devastated by this tragedy and we convey our deepest condolences to his family in Belgrade."

Mr. Vorkapic, a Serbian national, leaves behind a wife and three children. He had worked as an information technology specialist in UNHCR's office in Belgrade since 2000. Mr. Vorkapic's colleagues in the UNHCR Belgrade office said Wednesday morning that they were "devastated at his senseless loss."

News reports Wednesday morning reported 16 people died, including a UNICEF staff member, and more than 50 were injured in the bombing of Peshawar's Pearl Continental Hotel.

High Commissioner Guterres joined Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in condemning the attack, "which no cause can justify."

"Humanitarian workers around the world are coming under increasing attack and it is the poor, the uprooted and the vulnerable who will suffer the most by their loss," Guterres said. "Aleksandar Vorkapic was the second UNHCR staff member to be killed in less than five months in Pakistan, where hundreds of thousands of people depend on UNHCR assistance. Now, once again, we are forced to ask ourselves how we can meet their urgent needs while ensuring the safety of our own humanitarian staff? It is a truly terrible dilemma."

On February 2, UNHCR staff member Syed Hashim was shot and killed in an attack in Quetta which also resulted in the abduction of the refugee agency's head of office in the southern Pakistan city. Head of office John Solecki was released after two months.