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UNHCR staff member killed in Afghanistan, High Commissioner condemns attack

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UNHCR staff member killed in Afghanistan, High Commissioner condemns attack

15 November 2003

16 November 2003

GENEVA - Gunmen riding on a motorcycle today shot and killed a staff member of the UN Refugee Agency in Afghanistan in an attack High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers denounced as a "dastardly assault" on humanitarian relief efforts.

Bettina Goislard, a 29-year-old French national, was travelling in a clearly marked UNHCR vehicle in the centre of Ghazni city, 100 km south of the Afghan capital of Kabul, when two men on a motorcycle opened fire with a pistol.

Goislard was pronounced dead on arrival at a hospital, where she was brought by city residents. Her driver, Abdul Salam Sadid, suffered a bullet wound in his arm but was in stable condition. Another local staff, Ali Mohammad, escaped unharmed.

"This is yet another dastardly assault on an innocent humanitarian worker," said Lubbers in a statement issued in Geneva. He said the UN agency was suspending its activities in Ghazni province and will be conducting a review of its work in Afghanistan.

"We are deeply shocked and greatly angered by the senseless murder of Bettina, who was an exemplary young colleague always actively seeking ways to help people in need," said Filippo Grandi, UNHCR's Chief of Mission for Afghanistan. "Her dedication to the Afghan people was truly extraordinary. Her death is a terrible loss to her family, to us and to Afghanistan."

Goislard had worked in Ghazni since June 2002, following other difficult assignments with UNHCR in Rwanda and Guinea.

The two attackers have been arrested and the details of the incident are being investigated.

Goislard was the first UN staff to be killed in Afghanistan since the United Nations resumed operations in the country following the fall of the Taliban regime two years ago. She was the fifth UNHCR staff member to be killed in the line of duty since three workers were killed in Indonesia and another in Guinea in 2000.

Since the resumption of its activities in Afghanistan, the UN refugee agency has helped in the return of some 2.5 million Afghan refugees from Pakistan and Iran and another 500,000 internally displaced people.