French woman first UN member to be shot dead in Afghanistan

A FRENCH woman working for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was shot dead yesterday in the Afghan town of Ghazni when two men on a motorcycle opened fire on her vehicle with a pistol.

Her death was the first among UN international staff in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban to US-led forces two years ago.

Local authorities in the town to the southwest of the capital Kabul have arrested two gunmen and said they believed the killers were rebels from the ousted Taliban regime which has staged a comeback in parts of the country in recent months.

“Two unknown gunmen on motorbikes opened fire on the car of the UNHCR which fatally wounded the international staffer of the UNHCR ... at midday today,” UN spokesman David Singh said.

Bettina Goislard, 29, a French national, had been in Ghazni since June 2002, having worked for the UNHCR in Rwanda and Guinea. She was pronounced dead on arrival at a local hospital.

Local driver Abdul Salam Sadid was shot in the arm but is in a stable condition, while field assistant Ali Mohammad was unhurt.

UNHCR chief of mission in Afghanistan Filippo Grandi said in a statement workers were “deeply shocked and greatly angered by the senseless murder of Bettina, who was an exemplary young colleague always actively seeking ways to help people in need. Her death is a terrible loss to her family, to us and to Afghanistan.”

A Western aid worker said the incident underlined the need for 5,500 peacekeepers in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to expand operations beyond Kabul.

Afghanistan is building up for presidential elections scheduled for June, 2004, but much of the country remains off-limits for aid workers concerned about a resurgent Taliban and local turf battles.

There are currently 813 international staff working with UNAMA (UN Assistance Mission to Afghanistan).

In March, suspected Taliban rebels executed an El Salvadorean employee of the International Committee of the Red Cross in the southern province of Kandahar, the former stronghold of the hard-line militia.

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