Red Cross halts all staff movement after Afghan attack

The International Committee of the Red Cross has halted all staff movement across Afghanistan and closed its office in Jalalabad that was hit by a suicide and gun attack.

An Afghan policeman stands guard beside the wreckage of burntout vehicles of the International Red Cross after an attack in Jalalabad on May 30, 2013An Afghan policeman stands guard beside the wreckage of burntout vehicles of the International Red Cross after an attack in Jalalabad on May 30, 2013

“All movements have been frozen throughout Afghanistan, there is not a single ICRC delegate or employee that is moving, taking the roads, today,” Jacques De Maio, ICRC’s South Asia chief, said in a statement released in Geneva on Thursday.

“Our sub-delegation in Jalalabad has been closed, so we are reconnecting with the government and re-connecting with armed groups to determined what happened and why.”

The ICRC maintains strict neutrality in the Afghan conflict and was thought to be protected from attack by its working relations with the Taliban and other insurgent groups.

No militant group has claimed responsibility for Wednesday evening’s attack, in which one guard died at the start of the two-hour assault.

“He was unarmed, defenceless, he was protecting a compound from where hundreds of thousands of Afghans were getting valuable services,” De Maio said in the video statement.

“It was a brutal, despicable and frankly senseless attack… there isn’t a single Afghan that would not recognise that we are strictly independent and humanitarian in what we do.”

It was the first time that offices of the ICRC had been targeted since the organisation began work in Afghanistan in 1987.

ICRC, which has 1,800 employees nationwide, had 36 staff, including six expatriates, in the eastern city of Jalalabad.

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