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Fatal attack on UNHCR compound in Yei, South Sudan

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Fatal attack on UNHCR compound in Yei, South Sudan

16 March 2006

Geneva, Tuesday 16 March 2006

A UNHCR international staff member and a local guard are in critical condition after being shot during an attack Wednesday night on the refugee agency's compound in Yei, South Sudan. A local guard was killed in the incident.

"This is a shocking event, and our hearts and thoughts are with the family of the deceased and with critically ill staff members fighting for their lives," said the UN refugee agency's High Commissioner António Guterres.

Details of the attack are still sketchy, but at 8.30pm local time in Yei, UNHCR's compound was attacked by two unknown armed intruders. One guard and one of the intruders were killed during the attack. A UNHCR international staff member shot in the abdomen and a local guard shot in the leg are both in a critical condition in a Juba hospital, after being airlifted from Yei early Thursday morning. An emergency medical evacuation to Nairobi is planned as soon as possible.

Six other UNHCR international staff were in the compound at the time of the attack but were not wounded and are safe. No local staff were present. One of the intruders to the compound was captured and is now in detention in Yei.

"This attack just underscores the difficulties UNHCR faces in our operations in South Sudan where we are trying to create an environment for thousands of refugees in neighbouring countries to be able to return home and stay home," Guterres said.

UNHCR set up a presence in Yei in 2004 to prepare for the return of South Sudanese refugees from the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Uganda to the West Equatoria region.

A planned repatriation movement from the DRC to the Yei region due to start next week has been suspended while UNHCR reviews the situation.

There are 350,000 refugees from South Sudan in neighbouring countries, including 13,300 in DRC, and some 4 million people displaced within Sudan.