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Daily Archives: December 13, 2007

Ten UN staffers killed in Algiers bombings

The United Nations said 11 of its employees were killed and several others were missing in Tuesday's car bomb attacks on its offices in Algiers, the deadliest to hit the world body since 2003.The Algerian government said 26 people were killed and 177 injured wounded by the twin bombings which were claimed by the extremist network Al-Qaeda's Branch in the Islamic Maghreb (BAQMI).But hospital sources in Algiers gave a toll of 62 dead and about 100 injured.At UN headquarters, spokeswoman Marie Okabe raised from 10 to 11 the death toll among staffers at the offices of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in the Algerian capital.She said the 11 were were mostly Algerians but included three foreigners.Several UN employees were still missing, trapped under the rubble of collapsed buildings, Okabe added.UN chief Ban Ki-moon voiced shock and outrage at what he described as "terrorist attacks" which destroyed UNDP offices and severely damaged UNHCR offices."Words cannot express my sense of shock, outrage and anger at the terrorist attack on the UN mission in Algiers," Ban said in a statement issued in Bali, Indonesia, where he is attending a climate change conference.The Algiers attacks was the bloodiest on UN facilities since the August 19, 2003 truck bomb attack on the UN office in Baghdad, which killed 22 people, including special envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello.They raised new questions about security measures in place to protect UN personnel around the world at a time when Ban Ki-moon is considering expanding the world body's presence in Iraq if security improves.UNHCR head Antonio Guterres told BBC News that he had "no doubt" that the UN was deliberately targeted in Algiers.Ban said he directed some of his senior advisers to rush to Algiers and vowed to take every measure to ensure the safety of UN staff."We will take every measure to ensure their safety, in Algeria and elsewhere, beginning with an immediate review of our security precautions and policies," the UN chief said.The UN staff union also expressed outrage and demanded a full investigation "to determine if adequate security measures were in place to prevent such a horrifying act.""The blatant attacks, which killed UN staff members engaged in development and assistance to refugees, once again serves as a tragic reminder of the dangers faced daily by United Nations staff across the globe," said a statement released by the Staff Council's standing committee on security here.At least 19 UN staff members have been killed this year around the world, it noted.Okabe said the UN currently has 40 international staff in Algeria — 19 based there and an additional 21 stationed there temporarily — in addition to about 115 local staff in the capital.Amid a disputed death toll, rescuers pulled six people alive from the debris of one of the bombs which tore through the offices of the UNHCR other UN agencies, Algerian television reported.The second attack killed and maimed students packed in a bus passing a car as it was detonated outside the country's highest court in central Algiers.The UN Security Council also adopted a non-binding statement condemning "in the strongest terms this heinous act of terrorism" and stressing the need to bring the perpetrators to justice.BAQMI meanwhile claimed responsibility for the bombs in a statement published on an Islamist website, the authenticity of which could not be immediately confirmed.Formerly known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), the group has admitted responsibility for a series of bomb attacks across Algeria since changing its name and pledging allegiance to Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden this year.

Tuesday's strikes were the latest in a series of bombings in Algiers and other major Algerian cities this year that have killed about 100 people.

Security upped at UN climate meet after Algiers attack

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Security was stepped up Wednesday around a major UN conference on climate change in Bali, where UN chief Ban Ki-moon denounced deadly car bombings on UN offices in Algiers.Ahead of the official launch of the day's talks, heads of government and environment ministers held a minute of silence in memory of at least 26 people — including 11 United Nations employees — killed in Tuesday's attack."This attack is an attack on all of us and the ideas that we hold dear. Our hearts go out to the victims and their families," said conference president Rachmat Witoelar.Ban earlier opened a day of talks among senior delegates by reading out a statement issued overnight voicing "shock, outrage and anger" at the attack.He made the statement from Bali amid tightened security as environment ministers were meeting for the final leg of the December 3-14 forum on addressing the global warming crisis.Troops, bomb-detector trucks and helicopters were deployed around the perimeter of the conference centre, which is technically United Nations ground for the duration of the talks.Most vehicles were forbidden from entering the main venue of the talks, while armed soldiers stood guard on intersections across the tourist enclave of Nusa Dua, where hotels are hosting delegates and side events.Security was high before Wednesday and had already been scheduled to be reinforced for the three-day ministerial-level meeting, "but it's gone up another notch after what happened in Algiers," a UN security officer said."If these people (the attackers) will hit a refugee office, they'll attack anything."Bali's police spokesman A.S. Reniban said that 8,000 military personnel and 8,000 police officers were stationed near the conference centre, in addition to the UN police force patrolling the summit grounds.The army reassured participants that there was no known threat to the conference."Today is the peak of our activity, but we have no report of any threat from our intelligence, so we act according to our plan," said Major Kalim, a spokesman for the Indonesian army.Ban made no mention of any additional measures, but said the UN would launch "an immediate review of our security precautions and policies.""The security of UN staff is paramount," he said.At least 11 UN staffers were killed and several more were missing after car bomb attacks Tuesday on UN offices in Algiers, according to a revised death toll released at the United Nations in New York.The Algerian government said 26 people were killed and 177 injured wounded by the two bombings.But hospital sources in Algiers gave a toll of 62 dead and about 100 injured in the attacks, claimed by the extremist network Al-Qaeda's Branch in the Islamic Maghreb (BAQMI).One of the bombs tore through the offices of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the Algerian capital, while the other was detonated outside the country's highest court.