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Red Cross Considers Response After Worker Killed in Iraq - 2003-07-23


Following the shooting death of one of its aid workers in Iraq Tuesday, the International Committee of the Red Cross says it is looking into measures to assure the safety of its delegates.

The Geneva-based humanitarian agency says it is studying the implications of the attack so as to decide on what it calls its future course of action in Iraq.

A Red Cross delegate from Sri Lanka was killed and his Iraqi driver seriously wounded on Tuesday when their vehicle came under fire near the town of Hillah, south of the capital Baghdad.

ICRC Spokeswoman Antonella Notari told VOA the attack by unknown gunmen was deliberate. "There was no question that this was a Red Cross car," she said. "It was very visibly marked with a flag, with emblems all over the car. It was very clearly a Red Cross car and also the attackers shot from a short distance. So, obviously they did recognize it as a Red Cross car."

Ms. Notari said the Iraqi police and the coalition forces are investigating the incident.

In the meantime, she said discussions regarding Red Cross operations in Iraq and the need to ensure the safety of aid workers are taking place at its headquarters in Geneva and in Iraq.

"We need to evaluate what that means in terms of our capacity to operate in Iraq, in terms of the way we organize ourselves," explained Ms. Notari. "What measures we need to take for security and so forth. We have today a very large operation in Iraq. We have 850 staff members working in eight different offices throughout the country. We now need to see what measures need to be taken so we can ensure a safe operation for all these people."

Ms. Notari said a permanent ICRC office was recently set up in Hillah, near the site of the attack.

Despite the heightened insecurity, she said the Red Cross will not suspend its humanitarian activities in the country. She said the agency has been in Iraq since 1980 and is determined to continue working on behalf of the Iraqi people. However, she adds this needs to be done without exposing Red Cross aid workers to unnecessary threats.

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