UN chief Ban Ki-moon has vowed to stand firm in Afghanistan, just hours after Taliban fighters killed five United Nations employees at a compound in Kabul.
Ban insisted the United Nations would not waver despite clearly being a top Taliban target ahead of next week’s run-off presidential election.
“We will never be deterred by these terrorist attacks,” he told a press conference.
However, he offered no detail about what could be done to secure hundreds of UN staff in the country, many living in similar compounds to the type stormed by a Taliban suicide squad on Wednesday, and he admitted that other casualties were possible.
“It is quite an unfortunate fact of life that we cannot ensure 100 per cent the security because of these suicidal terrorist attacks,” Ban said.
Ban did not answer journalists’ questions about security plans, saying only “we have to get the full support” of Afghan and Western military forces.
‘Heinous’ terrorist attack
He also did not say whether staff would be withdrawn following the attack, which recalled a devastating assault in 2003 on UN headquarters in Iraq that killed 22 people and forced the world organisation to pull out of the country.
The dawn attack casts a deadly shadow over the November 7 run-off election in which the United Nations is providing a crucial supporting role, following a first round marred by large-scale fraud.
“No one underestimates the difficulties, especially in the aftermath of today’s attack,” Ban said.
“In principle we are not and we should not be deterred by this heinous terrorist attack. We will continue our work, particularly on helping the Afghan government and people carry on this second presidential election,” he said.
That position was echoed by the UN Security Council – led by Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States – which declared “steadfast support for the role of the United Nations in Afghanistan.”
In a separate written statement, Ban condemned the “despicable and brutal” attack and issued condolences to those “viciously killed as they sought to serve the people of Afghanistan”.
Taliban ‘dressed as police’
He vowed the “United Nations remains committed to continue its work in the country.”
The attack by Taliban suicide gunmen left at least five expatriate UN staff dead, the heaviest toll for the world body in Afghanistan since 2001.
Two security personnel were also killed, and a charred, unidentified body was found in one of the rooms, bringing the total death toll to eight, plus the three gunmen.
The American embassy identified one of the fatalities as a US citizen.
Another nine UN staff were wounded as gunfire and explosions rang out across the city in a smart residential district close to popular shopping streets.
An Afghan defence ministry official said the brazen raid was the work of Pakistani Taliban dressed as police who struck the UN-approved Bekhtar Guesthouse before dawn.
Witnesses said the militants sprayed the guesthouse with gunfire and detonated grenades before blowing themselves up.