Deploring deadly attacks, Ban Ki-moon dispatches top aides to Algiers

11 December 2007 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has led a chorus of United Nations condemnation of today’s terrorist attacks in Algiers that have reportedly killed dozens of people, including at least 11 UN staff members, and he has dispatched several top aides to the Algerian capital to investigate the bombings.

“Words cannot express my sense of shock, outrage and anger at the terrorist attack on the United Nations mission in Algiers today,” Mr. Ban said in a statement issued in Bali, Indonesia, where he is currently travelling.

According to the UN, at approximately 10:30 in the morning in Algiers, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) office collapsed following an explosion, which local authorities have indicated was caused by a car bomb. Another car bomb exploded near the country’s Constitutional Court. No one has so far claimed responsibility.

“This was an abjectly cowardly strike against civilian officials serving humanity’s highest ideals under the UN banner – base, indecent and unjustifiable by even the most barbarous political standard,” Mr. Ban stated. The Secretary-General’s comments were echoed in condemnations issued by the 15-member Security Council and the President of the General Assembly following today’s tragic events.

Mr. Ban has instructed senior advisers from his Executive Office, UNDP and the UN Department of Safety and Security to proceed to Algiers immediately. “We will take every measure to ensure the safety of our staff, in Algeria and elsewhere, beginning with an immediate review of our security precautions and policies,” he pledged in a letter to UN staff in the wake of the attacks.

A spokesperson for the UN said that while the Organization could not provide any figures of fatalities until it had confirmed proof of deaths and the families had been informed, preliminary information indicates there may be 11 deaths.

The UN is checking with hospitals, examining the site of the blast and trying to obtain any proof of deaths, UN spokesperson Marie Okabe told reporters in New York, noting that rescue efforts are also continuing as several UN staff members remain unaccounted for.

The world body has a total of 40 international staff presently in Algeria, including 19 international staff based there and an additional 21 that are there temporarily, as well as about 115 local UN staff in the capital.

The UNDP office also housed staff from the World Food Programme (WFP), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the Department of Safety and Security. The offices of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), located across the street, also sustained damage.

UNHCR chief António Guterres expressed his shock and outrage, calling the bombings “totally abhorrent.”

The agency said a survey of its staff in Algiers showed that one of its drivers was killed, one was missing and all others were accounted for – although several suffered injuries from the blast that occurred in a street separating the main UN office from UNHCR’s compound.

“The UN is an entity that works for world peace, an entity that tries to be an honest broker, especially when dealing with the humanitarian needs of refugees and other victims of violence and persecution,” Mr. Guterres said. “This makes this type of attack even more absurd.”

UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis said in a statement that “it is an outrage that extremists do not hold human life to be sacred, and that humanitarian and aid workers are apparently amongst the casualties.”

Condemnations of the attacks have also come from the head of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the Geneva-based Human Rights Council.

The flags at UN Headquarters in New York and at duty stations around the world will be flown at half mast through Wednesday.

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