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Family Mourns U.N. Worker in Afghanistan

November 19, 2003

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) _ Relatives of a slain French refugee worker arrived Wednesday to bid her a somber farewell after she was shot in broad daylight by suspected Taliban in central Afghanistan last weekend.

The parents, brother and sister of Bettina Goislard, 29, flew into Kabul and were greeted by members of the Afghan government, the French Embassy and colleagues from the U.N. High Commission for Refugees.

``We, the family, are devastated by the pain. We have lost our child, our sister and we know how many people are suffering also from her absence,″ the family said in a statement. ``She paid with her life for her commitment and her convictions, conscious of the importance and the difficulties of her mission.″

Maki Shinohara, a spokeswoman in Kabul for UNHCR, said the family planned to view Goislard’s body, which was at a base for international peacekeepers in the capital.

``They want to see Bettina for one last time,″ Shinohara said.

Meanwhile, there was another report of violence against a U.N. worker in Ghazni province, where Goislard was killed.

Armed men on Monday carjacked a vehicle belonging to a U.N.-affiliated demining program, abducting the Afghan driver, beating him up and then stealing the vehicle, said Patrick Fruchet, a spokesman for the U.N. Mine Action Center. The Afghan driver managed to walk six miles back to Ghazni to seek medical attention.

Fruchet said the U.N. agency had restricted the movements of its staff in the area while it reviews security. The driver, an employee of the Afghan-run Mine Detection and Dog Center, was in good condition Wednesday. The vehicle was clearly marked as belonging to the aid organization, Fruchet said.

Mine clearing is critical to the construction of a major road between Kabul and the southern city of Kandahar.

A small funeral for Goislard was planned for Thursday at a cemetery in Kabul, Shinohara said. A larger memorial was to be held Sunday.

Goislard worked in Afghanistan for more than a year and told colleagues that if anything happened to her she wished to be buried there.

Her killing sent shock waves through the international community, already facing an increasingly dangerous situation in Afghanistan’s largely lawless provinces. There have been a rash of attacks on international aid organizations and the United Nations.

Goislard, however, was the first international U.N. worker to be killed in Afghanistan.

The U.N. refugee agency pulled all 30 of its international workers out of the volatile south and east Tuesday and suspended all aid to refugees returning from Pakistan in the wake of the killing, saying it was unable to protect its staff.

The United Nations has also banned all staff in the country from traveling by road while it reviews the security situation. The refugee agency said it is reevaluating its operations in Afghanistan.

Update hourly