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Working for U.N. Becomes ‘More Dangerous’ Says Staff Union

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 9 2014 (IPS) - A variety of deliberate attacks by terrorists and insurgents killed 58 persons working for the United Nations last year, a steep increase from previous years, new figures from the world body’s union showed Wednesday.

According to the Staff Union’s Standing Committee for the Security and Independence of the International Civil Service, 33 peacekeepers and 25 civilian staffers and contactors lost their lives in 2013. In 2012, 37 U.N. personnel were killed in the line of duty.  In 2011, the figure was 36.

Working for the U.N. became “more dangerous” last year, the union concluded, noting that the highest number of casualties occurred in attacks targeting colleagues in South Sudan, Somalia and in the Darfur region of Sudan.

In particular, the most fatal assault was an ambush that killed 12 people associated with the U.N. Mission in South Sudan on April 9 in Jonglei State. Other attacks were in Mogadishu and Darfur, with eight deaths each.

The union also said that abductions of U.N. personnel continued throughout the year, mostly in relation to the conflict in Syria. Safety has long been an issue for U.N. peacekeepers and associated personnel.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a report last October that U.N. personnel had encountered a variety of threats not previously seen in the history of the organisation. “Direct attacks against the U.N. are a distressing phenomenon that has developed over the last decade and these attacks are becoming more intense and more sophisticated,” he said.

According to the U.N., the increasing asymmetrical nature of global conflicts together with the frequent use of improvised explosive devices and suicide bombings plays a critical role in increasing security threats.

Ban in October also called for more accountability, appealing to member states for their support in bringing to justice perpetrators of crimes and acts of violence against U.N. and humanitarian personnel.

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