Tue, Nov 18, 2003 - Page 5 News List

French aid worker killed in Afghanistan

ASSASSINATION The Taliban was suspected of being behind the midday shooting death of a woman working in southeastern Afghanistan for a UN refugee agency


A Frenchwoman working for the UN's refugee agency was shot dead at point-blank range by suspected Taliban in southeastern Afghanistan Sunday, in the latest in a series of attacks on foreign aid agencies.

UN spokesman David Singh said Bettina Goislard, 29, working with the UN High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR), and her driver were attacked by a gunman on a motorcycle in the city of Ghazni 130km southwest of Kabul.

"At around 12:30pm today two men on a motorcycle drove by a UNHCR vehicle in Ghazni bazaar. The passenger opened fire at point-blank range on the vehicle," Singh said.

"A French female national suffered fatal wounds and was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital," he said, adding that her Afghan driver was shot in the arm but his wounds were not life-threatening.

The killing follows a car bomb attack Tuesday on the UN's compound in Kandahar, which injured two Afghans.

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.

Singh said it was not known who carried out Sunday's attack but Ghazni governor Asadullah Khaled's aide Rameen said two suspected Taliban had been arrested for the killing.

"Fortunately the two terrorists were arrested," he said by satellite phone from Ghazni. "They are Afghans and are Taliban."

President Hamid Karzai condemned the killing as an act of terrorism.

"It is tragic and the whole nation is shocked by this act of merciless killing," he said in a statement.

"We will not tolerate acts of terrorism committed on our soil and against our people and our friends," he said.

A large number of people accompanied the convoy of vehicles which transported Goislard's body from Ghazni to Kabul, Karzai's office said.

The UN condemned the murder of Goislard, who had worked in Ghazni since June last year helping refugees and displaced people return home.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan was "distressed and angered" by the killing, his spokesman Fred Eckhard said.

UN staff in Kandahar, Gardez in the southeast and Jalalabad in the east had been told to return to their homes until security was reviewed, Singh said.

The UNHCR has suspended all operations in Ghazni following the murder and staff are on stand-by in the rest of Afghanistan, pending decisions on future measures, the agency said.

South and southeast Afghanistan have borne the brunt of a rise in violence blamed on resurgent Taliban who have increasingly targeted aid workers as well as US and Afghan troops since they were toppled in 2001.

Attacks on aid workers have spiralled in the past 12 months from once a month to once every two days, according to the CARE relief agency.

In September, a survivor described how four fellow Afghan employees of a Danish charity were pulled from their car and shot dead in Ghazni province by gunmen who said: "You were warned about working for NGOs."

The latest death brings to 12 the number of humanitarian workers killed since the end of March, when a Salvadoran-born Red Cross worker was shot dead execution-style by suspected Taliban between Kandahar and neighboring Uruzgan province.

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