- The Washington Times - Monday, October 5, 2009


UNITED NATIONS | A terrorist attack on a key U.N. agency office in Pakistan’s capital Monday killed at least five, wounded dozens and drew swift calls for tighter security. All of the fatalities were employees of the U.N. World Food Program.

A suicide bomber struck the main office for the WFP in Islamabad shortly after noon, targeting an agency that distributes food to more than 10 million needy Pakistanis.

Early reports said a warehouse had been destroyed, but WFP officials said the nearby facility where food is stored was not affected by the attack.

WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran denounced the attack, calling the casualties “humanitarian heroes” who were “working on the frontlines of hunger in a country where WFP assistance is providing a lifeline to millions.”

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon released a statement condemning the attack “in the strongest terms.”

The world body, which has endured repeated attacks in places as diverse as Algeria, Congo, Iraq, Gaza, Sudan and Somalia, is developing revised security procedures for dozens of U.N. locations around the world.

Gregory B. Starr, the chief for U.N. security at overseas sites, recently told The Washington Times that at least 20 U.N. offices and storage facilities are considered “at risk” missions.

Mr. Starr said his office is drafting security standards for missions in dangerous or unstable regions.

Pakistani police in Islamabad said the bomber had concealed about 15 pounds of explosives beneath a cloak, wire services reported from Islamabad.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, praised “the U.N. family, whose staff continue to do brave and essential work every day - despite persistent threats to their security - to improve the lives and alleviate the suffering of others.”

The WFP offices in Islamabad were in a rented villa, on a two-lane, residential street. It was protected by a two-foot tall concrete perimeter erected against car bombings.

The Pakistani government has encouraged aid agencies to stay in the heavily guarded Diplomatic Enclave, known for its enormous sprawl of security to protect consulates and homes for foreigners.

In the past, the U.N. humanitarian aid workers have avoided staying or working behind fortified walls, fearing it would limit contact with the public they are trying to serve.

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