WASHINGTON - The United States and the United Nations on Monday condemned the attack on a UN office in southern Kandahar province, vowing to bring the perpetrators to justice.
A group of suicide assailants, armed with heavy and light weapons, attacked the United Nation Higher Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in the second police district of Kandahar City a day earlier.
The first attacker crashed his explosives-laden van into a wall of the UNHCR office, allowing three others to engage with the security guards, the provincial police chief, Brig. Gen. Abdul Razaq, told a press conference.
Addressing reporters at the UN headquarters in New York, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the attack underscored the risks that UN and international aid workers faced in Afghanistan.
Ban added: "I would like to emphasize, once again, that this work is purely humanitarian. Its sole purpose is to improve the daily lives of the country's people. "
Meanwhile, the US Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, said: "Today's attack underlined the moral bankruptcy of the attackers and the bravery of humanitarians who serve others at great risk."
In another statement, the United Nations Staff Union and its Standing Committee on the Security and Independence of the International Civil Service expressed outrage at the assault, in which three employees of the organization were killed and two others wounded.
The incident confirmed a deadly trend of attacks against United Nations personnel in Afghanistan, the UN staff said.
In the light of the onslaught, the Staff Union urged the secretary-general to reconsider the deployment of staff in Afghanistan and to carry out a comprehensive review of the security situation in the country.
"The secretary-general should not deploy United Nations staff unless national and local authorities in the host country take measures to comply with established levels of security," it said.
The Staff Union stressed the safety of staff as the highest priority and that adequate measures must be taken to protect them throughout the country.
UNHCR has been working in Afghanistan since the 1980s, and over this period, the organization has facilitated the return of millions of refugees and assisted other forcibly displaced persons inside Afghanistan.
In a statement, High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said: "We are seeking a fuller understanding of the circumstances of the attack, nevertheless the fact remains that people working for us have suffered casualties and the functioning of our Kandahar office was seriously disrupted."
"This is a tragedy for UNHCR and for the families of the dead and wounded. It also underscores the great risks for humanitarian workers in Afghanistan. I am hugely saddened. All of us at UNHCR stand in solidarity with the families of those who have died or been injured," the commissioner concluded.