UN to Withdraw All International Staff from Somalia
UN security officials will pull all international UN staff out of Somalia, they announced Monday, saying the decision arose from the lack of insurance cover after the terrorist attacks on the United States.
The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Coordination Unit (UNCU) said the decision temporarily to evacuate was "forced upon the UN Security Management Team due to withdrawal of war risks insurance coverage by the insurance company which covers all UN flights".
A UN statement issued in the Kenyan capital Nairobi stressed that the temporary measure had "nothing to do with the security situation in Somalia", which has been carved up among rival clan warlords since 1991.
"The lapse of the appropriate war-risk coverage for UN flights in Somalia has occurred due to the enormous insurance claims arising out of the attacks in the United States nearly two weeks ago," the statement said.
Some 300 demonstrators gathered Sunday in Mogadishu to denounce the United States, despite condemnation by local Islamic clergy of the September 11 attacks by hijacked planes which destroyed the World Trade Center and part of the Pentagon.
Protestors carried portraits of Osama bin Laden, the Saudi-born radical Islamist named as Washington's prime suspect in the attacks and the hijacking of a fourth plane which crashed in Pennsylvania.
However, aid workers last week said most Somali Muslims did not share the views of the fundamentalists and played down speculation that Bin Laden could seek refuge in Somalia.
The UN Somalia Country Team will very shortly renegotiate its insurance policy with the insurance underwriters and it was hoped that UN flights are resumed to Somalia as soon as possible, Monday's UN statement said.
"Whilst this is a temporary setback for UN operations in Somalia, it is hoped that this technical issue can be resolved as soon as possible," UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Randolph Kent said.
"I would like to stress that this decision has nothing to do with the security situation in Somalia, which remains stable and unchanged," Kent said, according to the statement.
"My colleagues in the UN Country Team and I remain determined that humanitarian and development programs will continue during this time," Kent said.
Kent said that later Monday, some 30 international staff from Hargeisa in the self-declared northwest Somali republic of Somaliland and 15 from the central Somali town of Baidoa would be flown to Nairobi before the war risks insurance expired at midnight.
The UN system also employs some 560 national staff in Somalia, who will continue program operations in those and other locations to ensure maximum and effective provision of services during the withdrawal period, Kent added -- NAIROBI (AFP)
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