- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 6, 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.

A suicide bomber dressed as a security guard and asking to use the restroom shortly after noon was allowed into the main office for the U.N. World Food Program, where he blew himself up, wire services reported from the scene.

The agency distributes food to more than 10 million needy Pakistanis, including the Swat Valley less than 100 miles away the scene of a massive battle between the Pakistani Taliban and government forces earlier this year.

WFP officials said a warehouse facility near the Islamabad office where food is stored was unharmed.

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

This is a tragedy, not just for the WFP, but for the whole humanitarian community and for the hungry, Ms. Sheeran said.

The United Nations temporarily closed all its offices in Pakistan, but said it would continue distributing food and other aid through Pakistani partner agencies.

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

Two U.N. staffers died in a June blast at a luxury hotel in Peshawar, the gateway city to Pakistan’s tribal areas. Foreign-aid workers often stay there.

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.

A key question was why guards at the WFP compound let the stranger inside.

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.

Authorities blamed militants but did not single out the Taliban, whose new leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, appeared in public late Sunday for the first time in nearly two months, dispelling reports he had been killed.

In a seven-hour meeting Sunday with five Pakistani reporters, including one from the Associated Press, Mehsud vowed to retaliate for drone attacks.

The following day, Monday, the suicide bombers struck the WFP office.

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