[QODLink]
Archive
Red Cross shuts Iraqi offices

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has decided to temporarily shut its offices in Baghdad and the southern city of Basra due to safety concerns.

Last Modified: 08 Nov 2003 12:44 GMT
ICRC decides it is safer to pack its bags for a while

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has decided to temporarily shut its offices in Baghdad and the southern city of Basra due to safety concerns.

A spokesman for the Swiss-based organisation told Aljazeera.net that the ICRC will, however, operate in the north of Iraq.

Florian Westphal said last month’s car bomb attack at its Baghdad headquarters, which killed two of its Iraqi employees, dealt a serious blow to the organisation’s operations.

He said the ICRC was forced to consider a number of options, in order to ensure the safety of its staff.

"We decided against the option of military protection as it would go against our status as a neutral humanitarian body. We could not take the risk of being associated with one side or the other," he added.

The Red Cross move will be seized by critics of the US occupation, who have accused Washington of failing to provide adequate security for humanitarian agencies.

Optimistic

Westphal remains optimistic though, saying the closure of its offices does not mean the organisation will cease operating in the whole of the country.

“We will remain in northern Iraq. Our activities will focus on visiting prisoners detained by the occupying forces, re-establishing family contacts and providing emergency aid in the areas of water and medicine”, he said.

"We could not take the risk of being associated with one side or the other"

Florian Westphal,
ICRC spokesman

The ICRC’s assistance in water relief extended to technical support, ensuring pumping stations worked and provided drinking water to areas such as Basra in the south.

Westphal expressed his disappointment at the “forced” closure of the offices but said “we will keep an eye on the situation and hope things will change in order for us to restart what we can’t do at the moment.”

Ten civilians were killed in the Baghdad attack at the ICRC headquarters.

The attack was reportedly the bloodiest on an international organisation since a massive truck bomb devastated the UN’s headquarters in the capital on 19 August, killing 22 people, including Sergio Vieira de Mello, the top UN envoy to Iraq.

The car bombing was the first the ICRC had suffered in its 140-year history. The Red Cross has been operating in Iraq since 1980.

Source:
Aljazeera
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
An innovative rehabilitation programme offers Danish fighters in Syria an escape route and help without prosecution.
Street tension between radical Muslims and Holland's hard right rises, as Islamic State anxiety grows.
Take an immersive look at the challenges facing the war-torn country as US troops begin their withdrawal.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Featured
Anti-government secrecy organisation struggling for relevance without Julian Assange at the helm.
After decades of overfishing, Japan is taking aim at increasing the number of bluefin tuna in the ocean.
Chinese scientists are designing a particle-smashing collider so massive it could encircle a city.
Critics say the government is going full-steam ahead on economic recovery at the expense of human rights.
Spirits are high in Scotland's 'Whisky Capital of the World' with one distillery thirsty for independence.