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UNHCR Suspends Operations in Afghanistan's Kunar Province - 2003-08-14

The U.N. Refugee Agency says it has suspended operations in Afghanistan's eastern Kunar Province because of growing security problems.

The U.N. Refugee Agency says it suspended operations in Kunar following a rocket attack near its office a few days ago. UNHCR Spokesman Kris Janowski says his agency already had scaled down operations in that province because of rising danger. And, this latest attack proved to be just one too many.

"Nobody was hurt and we do not really have any evidence that our office was targeted," said Mr. Janowski. "The rocket fell fairly close by and this was, well to put it, the last straw before that decision was taken. But, there had been a string of various incidents, not necessarily affecting our office, but affecting local people. Mine strikes, attacks, rocket attacks and so on in that area, which have resulted eventually in us deciding to suspend the operations until further notice."

Mr. Janowski says he does not know who was behind the rocket attack. He says there are a number of groups interested in destabilizing the country. He says remnants of the former Taleban regime remain and, they as well as other people, are interested in stirring up trouble.

"We basically somehow have to adjust our operations to this reality," he said. "We try to do as much as we can and we try to do it, despite some risks. But, these risks have to be somehow weighed and deemed acceptable."

Mr. Janowski says the rocket which fell 400 meters from the UNHCR office was a wake-up call. He says the agency will watch the situation carefully and see when and if it is safe to resume operations.