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05 November 2009 

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UN Relocates Staff in Afghanistan Over Security Concerns

05 November 2009

The United Nations says it is temporarily relocating more than half of its 1,100 international staff members in Afghanistan because of security concerns.

The head of the U.N. mission in Afghanistan, Kai Eide, says they have started the process of moving at least 600 international staff members to more secure locations inside and outside Afghanistan.

He says most of those affected are support staff personnel and are not considered "frontline staff."

"We are not talking about pulling out, and we are not talking about [an] evacuation," he said.  "We are simply doing what we have to do, following the tragic event of last week, to look after our workers in a difficult moment while ensuring that our operations in Afghanistan can continue."

An Afghan policeman stands guard as firefighters are seen in the back ground as the site of an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, 28 Oct 2009
An Afghan policeman stands guard as firefighters are seen in the back ground as the site of an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, 28 Oct 2009
Last week, gunmen wearing suicide vests launched an attack on an international guesthouse in Kabul that killed five foreign U.N. staff members.  The Taliban claimed responsibility, saying they were targeting U.N. employees working on the recent Afghan presidential election.

Eighty percent of U.N. workers in Afghanistan are Afghans.  But many U.N. foreign staffers live in guesthouses or other areas in the general Afghan population.  U.N. officials say they plan to consolidate the living arrangements of their workers during the next three weeks in order to better protect them.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also has requested tens of millions of dollars in extra funds to help improve security and crisis preparation.

More than half of the 27 U.N. civilian personnel who have lost there lives this year have died in either Afghanistan or Pakistan.

On Monday, the United Nations said it is suspending long-term development work in areas along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan because of security concerns.

The announcement followed last month's increased violence in Pakistan, starting with a suicide bombing in a United Nations office in Islamabad and ending with a massive bombing in a Peshawar market that was the single deadliest act of terrorism since 2007.  

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