UN agency abandons Afghan regions

The UN refugee agency has withdrawn foreign staff from much of Afghanistan and halted aid to refugees returning from Pakistan following the murder of a French UN worker.

    Taliban fighters say they killed a French aid worker on Sunday

    "We are taking today a painful decision to temporarily reduce staff in eastern and southern provinces, withdrawing 30 international staff members from the border area," said Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) chief of mission for Afghanistan on Tuesday.

    Refugee reception centres in Pakistan were shut on Monday and their counterparts in Afghanistan would also be closed, he said.

    The UNHCR on Monday halted road trips throughout Afghanistan after its employee Bettina Goislard, 29, was shot dead on Sunday by two suspected Taliban while she was in a marked UNHCR vehicle in the bazaar in Ghazni town, 130km southwest of Kabul.

    She was the first UN worker to be killed in Afghanistan since the toppling of the Taliban regime two years ago.

    The decision to close reception centres effectively suspends UN help for Afghan refugees hoping to return from Pakistan. UNHCR said the Afghan government had been informed of the decision.   



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