French aid worker killed in Afghanistan

17th November 2003, Comments 0 comments

KABUL, Nov 17 (AFP) - Relief agencies were reeling Monday from the killing of a French United Nations worker in a city bazaar in southeast Afghanistan, the second foreign aid worker to be killed by suspected Taliban this year.

KABUL, Nov 17 (AFP) - Relief agencies were reeling Monday from the killing of a French United Nations worker in a city bazaar in southeast Afghanistan, the second foreign aid worker to be killed by suspected Taliban this year.

"We're in a bit of shock. It's yet another very serious development in a very unfortunate spiral of increasing incidents targeting the aid community in Afghanistan," Paul Barker, country director for Care International aid agency, told AFP.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) worker Bettina Goislard, 29, was shot dead in her car at point blank range Sunday in a bazaar in the southeast city of Ghazni, a former Taliban stronghold which has borne the brunt of a bloody Taliban resurgence.

At least 12 aid workers, including a Salvadoran-born Swiss national working for the Red Cross, have been killed in attacks blamed on resurgent Taliban fighters in south and southeast Afghanistan since March.

"It's very ominous. It's a scenario that seems to be building up here, primarily in the south and southeast and you're probably going to see a scaling back or slowing down of aid agency activities as a result," Barker said.

Most of the attacks on aid workers have been road ambushes by armed men travelling on motorbike. The killing of Goislard in an urban area was particularly worrying, he said.

"This is the second international aid worker to be killed in Afghanistan, the first one to be killed in a city.

"The assumption until now has been that cities are relatively safe, so this is a very ominous development."

Goislard's death underscored the worst fears of aid agencies, who have been crying out for foreign peacekeepers to bolster security outside Kabul, the capital which has been spared much of the Taliban resurgence.

She is the ninth aid worker to die in Taliban-blamed violence since NATO took command of foreign peacekeepers in the capital Kabul on August 11.

NATO has been authorised to expand the 5,300-strong force and take up posts in the provinces, but so far the first contingent to move beyond Kabul has deployed to the relatively trouble-free northeast province of Kunduz.

The killing follows a car bomb attack last Tuesday on the United Nations compound in southern city Kandahar in which two Afghans were injured.

A bomb also exploded outside the offices of Oxfam and Save the Children in a rare attack in Kabul last week but no-one was injured.

Care in September declared half of Afghanistan's 32 provinces "high-risk" for aid workers, noting that attacks on aid workers had spiralled from once a month to once every two days in the 12 months to September.

An umbrella organisation of Afghan-based aid groups, the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief, warned in September that violence was hampering development, "resulting in growing public support for radical movements."

Care's Barker said aid agencies were increasingly questioning whether they should pull out altogether from the insurgency-afflicted south and southeast.

"We certainly hope it doesn't come to that. It's a question which is increasingly being raised," he said.

"But we are seeing increasing numbers of districts off limits."

President Hamid Karzai, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and UNHCR chief Ruud Lubbers issued harsh condemnations of Sunday's killing.

"This is yet another dastardly assault on an innocent humanitarian worker," Lubbers said in Geneva.

Loyalists of the Taliban, toppled two years ago by US-led forces for harbouring Osama bin Laden, have been mounting increasingly bold guerrilla attacks since mid-year in south and southeast Afghanistan.

© AFP


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