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U.N. moving staff from Kabul after attack

- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 5, 2009

UNITED NATIONS | The United Nations said Thursday it is moving 600 international staffers in Afghanistan to safer locations following the recent attack on a guest house in Kabul.

"After last week's attacks, we're forced to take additional security measures for our staff here," U.N. spokesman Adrien Edwards told reporters in Kabul. We're providing additional security and moving people to more secure places, and we are in the process of reviewing all our locations.

The move followed a pre-dawn attack by gunmen wearing suicide vests on a guest house in Kabul on Oct. 28, in which five U.N. employees were among 8 killed.

Before the assault, international staff of about 1,100 lived in 93 guest houses, which required 93 separate security details.

Some staff will be moved to other facilities in the region and others to more secure locations in the country.

The scramble is in addition to the U.N. election advisers, who were already leaving after the decision earlier this week to cancel a presidential runoff election.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which marked the latest in a series of strikes in several countries in which the blue U.N. flag has become a bull's-eye for terrorists instead of a security blanket for locals.

U.N. officials stressed that the world body is not leaving Afghanistan but merely regrouping.

The United Nations has suffered multiple attacks in recent years, forcing it to balance its humanitarian mission with the safety of its staff in the field.

The chief of U.N. security operations, Gregory Starr, arrived in Afghanistan early this week, in part to oversee an evaluation of U.N. offices and accommodations.

Five U.N. staffers died in neighboring Pakistan last month when a militant dressed in a police uniform entered the World Food Program office in Islamabad asking to use the restroom and blew himself up.

In recent years, the United Nations has suffered deadly attacks in Iraq and Algeria. Its offices in the Gaza Strip also were hit during an Israeli offensive last winter.