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UNHCR grounds road trips in Afghanistan following murder of staff member

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UNHCR grounds road trips in Afghanistan following murder of staff member

17 November 2003

17 November 2003

GENEVA - The UN Refugee Agency today grounded road trips in Afghanistan and announced it will review its programme to help Afghan refugees return home a day after gunmen shot and killed a staff member in the southern city of Ghazni and wounded another.

The body of Bettina Goislard, a 29-year-old French national, was transported to Kabul on Sunday night from Ghazni, 100 km south of the Afghan capital. Arrangements are being made for her funeral.

Two men riding on a motorcycle opened fire on a UNHCR vehicle and killed Goislard and wounded her Afghan driver during the attack Sunday in broad daylight in downtown Ghazni. Another UNHCR local staff escaped unharmed. The attackers have been arrested.

Goislard is the first UN staff in Afghanistan to be murdered since UN operations resumed in Afghanistan following the collapse of the Taliban regime. Since then, UNHCR has assisted in the return of 2.5 million Afghan refugees from Iran and Pakistan and some 500,000 internally displaced Afghans.

Following Sunday's incident, the refugee agency suspended operations in Ghazni province. All staff members were confined to quarters and offices. Road missions were grounded throughout the country as UNHCR officials, together with the Afghan government, began reviewing its operations in Afghanistan.

"Whatever measures we take, we will stand by the majority of Afghans who are working with us to build peace in Afghanistan," said Filippo Grandi, UNHCR's representative in Afghanistan. "But we certainly cannot allow our staff to be left at the mercy of those who are targeting us."

High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers has condemned the killing of Goislard as "yet another dastardly assault on an innocent humanitarian worker." Since 2000, Goislard is the fifth UNHCR staff member to be killed in the line of duty following the murders of three staff members in Indonesia and another in Guinea that year.

Following assignments in Rwanda and Guinea, Goislard joined UNHCR in Afghanistan in June 2002, helping returning Afghan families restart their lives. Grandi said the staff were "deeply shocked and greatly angered" by the killing. "Her dedication to the Afghan people was truly extraordinary. Her death is a terrible loss to her family, to us and to Afghanistan," Grandi said.