December 13th, 2007 12:44 EST
Algiers, top UN official visits victims families and wounded
The head of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is in Algiers where he is meeting with the families of the victims of Tuesday’s bombings, which claimed the lives of at least 11 UN staff members, and visiting those who were injured.
Kemal Dervis, who was sent to the Algerian capital by the Secretary-General to represent the entire UN family, said, “I am here to offer my support to the families of those killed in the attacks and to send to the people of Algeria a strong message of solidarity from the United Nations.”
The UN said today that two more UN staff members are known to have died, in addition to the nine the Organization confirmed yesterday, and five are still missing. “Our effort to recover and identify bodies is continuing,” UN spokesperson Marie Okabe told reporters in New York.
Upon his arrival in Algiers yesterday, Mr. Dervis visited the UNDP office that was struck by a car bomb on Tuesday morning. The building, which also housed staff from a number of other UN agencies, was destroyed in the attack while the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, located across the street, was damaged. A second car bomb exploded near a government building.
He also met with the UN Country Team and representatives from several agencies whose staff sustained casualties.
Following his visit to local hospitals to meet with injured staff, Mr. Dervis said it was sad to see the impact of the attack on his colleagues, adding, that “the victims are not soldiers who signed up for battle, but people, mostly Algerians, who are working for peace, development and to alleviate human suffering.”
Mr. Dervis also met with Algerian Prime Minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem, and expressed appreciation for the Government’s efforts with the rescue operation.
“We are committed to continue working in Algeria,” Mr. Dervis stated. “But staff security is of the utmost importance to us and host governments around the world have to do their maximum to provide protection for our offices,” he affirmed.
Mr. Ban has also sent top officials from his Executive Office and the Department of Safety and Security to Algiers to determine how best to aid those injured in the attack and the families of the victims.
He has also ordered an immediate review of the Organization’s security precautions and policies, stressing that “the security and welfare of UN staff is paramount.”