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UNHCR outraged at shooting of staff worker in Pakistan

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UNHCR outraged at shooting of staff worker in Pakistan

16 July 2009

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, voiced his outrage at the shooting death of a UNHCR staff member at a camp outside the northwest Pakistani town of Peshawar today. Zill-e Usman was shot by unidentified gunmen in the Kutcha Gari camp on the border of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in North-West Frontier Province on the morning of July 16. Another staff member was injured in the incident but is in stable condition in a nearby hospital. A guard working with the Commissionerate for Afghan Refugees, a government-funded agency, was also killed. Four to five gunmen reportedly opened fire on the victim as he was walking back from the camp administrative office to his car during a routine visit to the site.

"Our deepest condolences to the family of Zill-e Usman," said Guterres, noting that he leaves behind a wife and four children. "There is no justification for attacks on humanitarian workers dedicated to the protection and care of the most vulnerable people." Guterres called on armed groups of all descriptions to cease attacks on humanitarian workers whose mission is to provide protection and assistance to the needy. UN staff gathered at headquarters in Geneva on Thursday at noon for a minute silence to honor their colleague.

The killing was the third of a UNHCR staff member in Pakistan in the past six months. On June 9, staff member Aleksandar Vorkapic died in the bombing of the Pearl Continental hotel in Peshawar; on 2 February, Syed Hashim, UNHCR senior driver, was killed in the kidnapping of John Solecki, head of the Quetta office, who was later released. Zill-e Usman, 59, was a well-respected member of the local community and one of UNHCR's most senior national staff members in Pakistan. He joined the UNHCR Peshawar office in 1984. At the time of the incident, he was working on the repatriation of people displaced by a conflict in Pakistan's tribal areas that broke out in August 2008. UNHCR is providing assistance to some two million people displaced by more recent fighting in regions surrounding the Swat Valley who have sought shelter in the NWFP. "It is unacceptable that humanitarian workers doing such vital and selfless work are attacked in this way," said Guterres. "We urge all armed groups to show respect for their countrymen and for innocent civilians as well as for the humanitarian workers who are providing life-saving assistance."