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Red Cross Condemns Attack on Baghdad Headquarters - 2003-10-27

The International Committee of the Red Cross has strongly condemned the bombing of its headquarters in Baghdad.

ICRC spokesman Florian Westphal tells VOA that his organization is saddened by the deaths of two employees and by the killings of at least 10 other people in the area. He says all deliberate attacks, which cause death or injury among civilians are strictly prohibited by international humanitarian law.

Mr. Westphal says the Red Cross does not know who was behind the bombing. Nor does he understand why anyone would deliberately target an organization that has provided humanitarian assistance in an independent and impartial way to the Iraqi people since 1980.

"I really cannot even imagine what the motives could be for carrying out such an attack," he said. "I hope that the people who did carry it out are aware that whom they are actually harming with this are the Iraqis, not just those Iraqis who were killed and injured today. But, also those Iraqis we have been able to help over the last few months. And it seems to me that these people are really the main victims of these kinds of attacks."

This is the second time the ICRC has been attacked by unknown assailants since the coalition invasion of Iraq. On July 22, a Red Cross worker was killed outside Baghdad. He was traveling in a vehicle clearly marked with the Red Cross emblem.

Following that incident, the Red Cross cut the number of expatriate workers in Iraq by half. Between 30 and 40 international staff members currently work in Iraq, alongside 700 Iraqi colleagues.

Mr. Westphal says he does not know how this latest attack will affect Red Cross operations in Iraq. He says the agency is taking stock of the situation and will decide in the coming days under what basis the ICRC will continue to work in the country.

"In the light of such a massive attack we have to always look at the security measures we have taken," said Mr. Westphal. "I think, you have got to understand that for humanitarian organizations, it really is not possible to live between heavily fortified armed barriers, which, in effect, prevent contact with the people who need our help."

Mr. Westphal says that, as an independent organization, the ICRC did not request any sort of armed protection from the coalition forces. He says that would run counter to the principles of international humanitarian law.