Secretary General Ban Talks by Phone With Afghan President Following Deadly Attack Against UN Staff

NEW YORK–(ENEWSPF)–2 April 2011 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today spoke by telephone with the President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai and expressed his sadness and shock to the head of State at the attack on the United Nations offices in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif that resulted in the death of three UN staff and four security guards.

Mr. Ban thanked Mr. Karzai for his expression of condolence and for the support he is extending to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, Staffan de Mistura, and to the UN family in Afghanistan to ensure the safety and security of UN staff.

The Secretary-General said he was dispatching his Chef de Cabinet Vijay Nambiar and Under-Secretary-General for Safety and Security Gregory Starr to Afghanistan to review the security situation.

Mr. Ban told Mr. Karzai that he would continue to work with the Alliance of Civilizations to promote tolerance for all faiths.

The Secretary-General and the Security Council strongly condemned yesterday’s attack in which a large crowd of demonstrators angry at the burning of a copy of the Koran by a United States group stormed a the UN compound and killed three UN staff and the Nepalese guards.

The attack took place about 4:30 p.m. at an operations centre for the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) in Mazar-i-Sharif.

An unconfirmed number of Afghan demonstrators were killed. Many staff were also wounded, including the head of UNAMA’s office in Mazar-i-Sharif.

Alain Le Roy, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, told reporters that the demonstration was one of several held across Afghanistan today in protest at last month’s burning of a Koran by a Christian group based in the state of Florida.

He said many of the demonstrators in Mazar-i-Sharif were armed and, while the security guards tried their best, the crowd was so large that they were soon outnumbered.

Mr. Ban described the attack as “outrageous and cowardly” and said it “cannot be justified under any circumstances.”

In a statement the Secretary-General said those killed “were dedicated to the cause of peace in Afghanistan and to a better life for all Afghans. These brave men and women were working in the best tradition of the United Nations and gave their lives in the service of humanity.”

The Security Council issued a press statement in the wake of the attack, with its 15 members condemning “all incitement to and acts of violence” and expressing their deep condolences to the families of the victims.

The Council called on Afghan authorities to take “all possible steps” to protect UN personnel and premises, and to bring the perpetrators of the attack to justice, according to the statement, read out by Ambassador Nestor Osorio of Colombia, which holds the rotating monthly presidency.

Mr. McNorton told the UN News Centre that the attack would not deter UNAMA from carrying out its work.

“We remain committed to supporting the Afghan people and to ensuring that they are able to obtain a better life. We remain committed to the cause of peace,” he said.

Mr. McNorton said the brutal nature of the attack was nevertheless being felt across the UN community in Afghanistan, where UNAMA and many UN agencies operate.

Wounded staff were evacuated from Mazar-i-Sharif, but Mr. Le Roy stressed that the UN would continue to have a presence in the city.