UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Eleven U.N. employees are believed to have been among those killed when car bombs hit U.N. and other buildings in Algiers on Tuesday and more U.N. staff were still unaccounted for, a U.N. spokeswoman said.
At least 26 people were killed when suspected al Qaeda militants detonated twin car bombs in Algeria’s capital, in one of the bloodiest attacks since civil strife in the 1990s.
An official tally put the death toll at 26, while a Health Ministry source said 67 people were killed. Algeria’s state radio, monitored by the BBC in London, said the dead included three Asian nationals, a Dane and one Senegalese.
“We are now putting the U.N. death toll at 11,” U.N. spokeswoman Marie Okabe said. Earlier she said, “A number of staff still remain unaccounted for and the situation, as you know, remains fluid.”
A U.N. statement said one of the two blasts destroyed the offices of the U.N. Development Program, or UNDP, and severely damaged the offices of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR, in the Algerian capital.
The Geneva-based commissioner, Antonio Guterres, said in a BBC television interview he had “no doubt that the U.N. was targeted”. He said the blast occurred in a street separating the main U.N. office from UNHCR’s compound.
The attack brought back memories of a bomb that destroyed the U.N. office in Baghdad in 2003 and killed 22 people, including mission chief Sergio Vieira de Mello.
Jean Fabre, head of UNDP’s Geneva office, earlier told Reuters that many of the U.N. missing were from the UNDP building, which also housed other U.N. agencies including the World Food Program and International Labor Organization.
A UNHCR spokesman said a driver employed by the agency had died.
“The situation on the ground is very confusing,” Okabe said earlier. “They (U.N. staff) are trying to locate people in hospitals. They’re digging through the rubble.” One person had been pulled alive from the rubble, she said.
Okabe said the United Nations had 19 permanent and 21 temporary international staff and 115 local staff in Algeria.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, attending a climate change conference in Indonesia, said in a statement: “Words cannot express my sense of shock, outrage and anger at the terrorist attack on the United Nations mission in Algiers today.
“This was an abject cowardly strike against civilian officials serving humanity’s highest ideals under the U.N. banner — base, indecent and unjustifiable by even the most barbarous political standard.”
A statement by the 15-nation Security Council also condemned “in the strongest terms ... this heinous act of terrorism” and called on all states to cooperate with Algeria to bring the perpetrators and their backers to justice.
Algeria blamed the bombs on the north African arm of Al Qaeda.
Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Mark Trevelyan in London and Claudia Parsons at the United Nations, editing by Cynthia Osterman