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UNHCR and WFP condemn murder of aid workers in Afghanistan

Press releases

UNHCR and WFP condemn murder of aid workers in Afghanistan

20 July 1998

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata, and the Executive Director of the World Food Programme Catherine Bertini, today condemned the killing in Afghanistan of two Afghan aid workers.

The victims, Mohammed Nazir Habibi (age 49) and Mohammad Hashim Bahsaryar (age 55), worked in Jalalabad with UNHCR and the World Food Programme. They were kidnapped on 13 July in front of Jalalabad University, while waiting for a UN vehicle to transport them to work. Both had previously been professors at Jalalabad University.

UNHCR and WFP immediately contacted the local Taliban governor in an effort to locate the two men. The body of the WFP employee, Bahsaryar, was found on Saturday, 18 July on the outskirts of Jalalabad. The body of the UNHCR employee, Habibi, was found on Sunday 19 July near Torkham, not far from the border with Pakistan.

Habibi was a key member of the team working on UNHCR's programme for the reintegration of returnees in the Jalalabad area, where most of the 70,000 refugees who returned from Pakistan in 1998 have settled. Bahsaryar was WFP's administrative clerk in the Jalalabad office.

"This tragic incident once again demonstrates the extreme risk faced by locally recruited staff of humanitarian agencies in certain parts of the world," said Sadako Ogata. "On behalf of UNHCR, I express our outrage at these killings and our most sincere condolences to the families of the two men."

In Rome, WFP Executive Director Catherine Bertini said: "All of us at WFP are united in condemning this evil act. These brutal killings are a cruel reminder that despite appeals for greater respect for humanitarian workers, some people or groups continue to kill with impunity."