Bomb kills 5 U.N. workers

Attack in Kandahar shows aid crews' risk

April 18, 2007|By Shafiq Ahmad Saidi and Laura King | Shafiq Ahmad Saidi and Laura King,LOS ANGELES TIMES

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN -- Insurgents yesterday blasted a U.N. convoy with a roadside bomb in the volatile southern city of Kandahar, killing five support workers and stirring fears that violence will further erode struggling aid efforts across Afghanistan.

It was the deadliest attack aimed at U.N. staff in the country since the fall of the Taliban in late 2001, world body officials said.

Meanwhile, militants for the third straight day targeted Afghan security forces, with dozens of Taliban fighters staging a series of coordinated strikes on police posts less than 50 miles from the Afghan capital. Details of the fighting were sketchy, but up to 10 insurgents were reported killed, and several police officers wounded.

Killed in the Kandahar explosion were four Nepalese contract workers and an Afghan driver working with the U.N.'s Office of Project Services, a logistics and support agency.

The bomb, apparently detonated by remote control, went off as the four-vehicle convoy was making its way through the city, a former Taliban stronghold that is considered extremely dangerous despite the presence of thousands of coalition troops at an airbase just outside Kandahar.

The powerful explosion charred the gray sport utility vehicle, blowing off its doors and leaving a large, smoking crater in the road.

"The insecurity in Afghanistan does make the job we have much more difficult," Adrian Edwards, the chief U.N. spokesman in Afghanistan, said by telephone from Kabul. "Everything takes longer, and is that much harder."

Most U.N. staffers work out of heavily guarded compounds in the capital, Kabul, but staff from a dozen separate agencies carry out fieldwork in concert with local aid groups. But the lagging pace of development and rebuilding over the past five years has been a source of great disappointment to many Afghans and has hurt the standing of President Hamid Karzai's government.

The U.N. condemned the attack as a violation of international law and said it would pursue "full accountability" of those responsible. In New York, Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon condemned "such despicable acts of violence against civilians."

Officials at the world body declined to say how many staff members were riding in the convoy.

Shafiq Ahmad Saidi and Laura King write for the Los Angeles Times.

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