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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 6/11/09

Killing of UN Officials at Peshawar Hotel Bombing Causes Exodus of Refugee Support Groups

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The killing of United Nations officials at the lone five star hotel of Peshawar has hampered the relief operation for the internally displaced persons (IDPs) as majority of the UN officials and representatives of other donor agencies have left Peshawar in the haste. Observers in Peshawar described the bombing at the PC hotel where mostly the foreigners have been staying as the 9/11 of North West Frontier Province. Now the provincial government will find hard to provide relief to the IDPs. According to a rough estimate some three million people have been displaced due to the army operation against terrorists in tribal areas and Malakand region.

There are reports of killing of several UN officials in the blast. A report said that the United States had hired upper portion of the hotel for opening consulate in the region. It is not yet clear as who was targetted in the attack, but the terrorists have succeeded in their mission of creating terror and fear in the region.

 Foreign missions have suspended their activities in Peshawar following Tuesday's suicide attack on the five-star hotel while six more bodies were retrieved from the rubble on Wednesday, raising the death toll to 17.

The closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage triggered speculations as to how the electric barricade at the entrance was lowered for the two vehicles used by the terrorists when they forced their entry into the hotel after opening fire on two guards at the security cabin and others outside the main gate.

NWFP Senior Minister Bashir Ahmad Bilour also hinted at the involvement of some hotel employees, saying this angle of the incident was being investigated. Bilour, however, rejected any security lapse, saying the terrorists had also struck the ISI offices and police colleges in the past.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the World Food Programme (WFP), the American Consulate in Peshawar and several other diplomatic missions and international bodies suspended their activities in the city by directing foreign officials to restrict their movement.

The WFP also suspended its operations, but its activities for the internally displaced persons (IDPs) of the Malakand Division will continue.The first information report (FIR) of the case was also lodged at the East Cantt police station.

The bodies recovered on Wednesday included general manager of the hotel Syed Kamal, PIA Captain Muhammad Mansha, restaurant manager Lali Jan, security guard Shahzada and cook Sheikh Abdul Mateen.

Two foreign UN officials, Serbian national Aleksandar Vorkapic of the UNHCR, Ms Perseveranda So of the Philippines working for the Unicef, and three local officials of the United Nations Population Fund, Muhammad Miskin, admin relief assistant, Muhammad Tahir and a driver Muhammad Fawad, were among those killed in the suicide blast.

A UN official said four of the injured UN workers included Gordon Brown and Augustine Fredrick of the WFP, Adili Motupotu of the World Health Organisation and a Unicef intern, Anna Ciger.

According to the sources, 22 foreigners were inside the hotel when the blast rocked the building. The wounded foreigners included a Somali national, three Nigerians, a US national girl and a German. The UN confirmed the death of its two officials in the blast, saying seven of its workers sustained wounds in the incident.

The CCTV video released on Wednesday showed a person entering on bicycle to the PC Hotel when he was stopped and checked briefly. However, a white Corolla car and a mini-truck, following the car, were not stopped and the barricade went down for them.

Occupants of both the car and truck opened fire on the security guards inside the cabin and others at the main gate on their left. One of the guards can also be seen running after the car.There were also reports that the white car used in the attack was seen parked outside the NWFP Assembly building moments before the blast.

According to reports, two of the terrorists were sitting inside the car while one, in uniform, was standing outside. "This may be because of the uniforms that the security guards lowered the barricade. However, it still needs to be investigated properly," a police official said.It was not known as to whether all the attackers were killed in the blast or those in the pilot car managed to escape during the crossfire.

Over 500 kilograms of explosives was used in the attack that resulted in collapse of one part of the hotel building and destroyed around 50 cars parked there.The parking lot of the hotel where the explosives went off is located at the right corner of the main building that shares the boundary wall with the official residence of the corps commander Peshawar.

The boundary wall of the residence of the corps commander also collapsed due to the explosion. Rescue work continued throughout Wednesday with cranes removing debris to search for those still missing.

NWFP Chief Minister Ameer Haider Khan also visited the spot and inspected the rescue work.The hotel administration complained of poor security arrangements for the protection of the sole place accommodating foreigners in the Frontier.

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Muhammad Khurshid, a resident of Bajaur Agency, tribal areas situated on Pak-Afghan border is journalist by profession. He contributes articles and news stories to various online and print newspapers. His subject matter is terrorism. He is also (more...)
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