Thursday, October 9, 2008

Probe of Attack on UN in Algiers Cities Failings of 10 Workers


Oct. 8 (Bloomberg) -- An inquiry into the December 2007 terrorist bombing of the United Nations' headquarters in Algiers cited 10 staff members for security failings that contributed to the attack that killed 17 of their co-workers.

The independent investigation, ordered in June by Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon, reported ``dysfunction'' of the UN security system due to a lack of resources, training, supervision and accountability. It described ``politicization'' by the government of Algeria and the UN in setting the level of security at the time of the bombing.

``There were significant lapses in judgment and performance,'' a summary of the panel's 88-page report said today. ``There was a lack of adequate supervision and guidance on the part of senior managers.'' It said disciplinary action against four persons and measures to correct the mistakes of six others were recommended to Ban.

The UN didn't release the report itself because of security concerns and respect for due process in disciplinary actions under consideration, spokeswomanMichele Montas said. The names of the UN workers weren't included in the summary.

Ralph Zacklin, the former assistant secretary-general for legal affairs who directed the inquiry, said the report didn't fault either Ban or David Veness, the UN security chief who quit in June before the release of a report on an investigation led by former Algerian foreign minister Lakhdar Brahimi.

The summary said Veness was given ``responsibility without authority.''

Baghdad Bombing

The Dec. 11 attack was the deadliest against the world body since the 2003 bombing of its headquarters in Baghdad that killed 22 people, including former Secretary-General Kofi Annan's special envoy, Sergio Vieira de Mello. Al-Qaeda in North Africa claimed responsibility for the Algiers attack as well as the deaths of 50 people in a separate bombing in the city that day.

Zacklin told reporters the UN lowered the security level in Algiers to Phase 1 (the lowest of five levels) in June 2006 because the government of Algeria wasn't ``happy'' with the previous Phase 3 status.

Mourad Benmehidi, Algeria's ambassador to the UN, had no comment on the report.

Brahimi's report said the UN needed a ``change in culture'' to deal with increasing global terrorist dangers connected to the view that the organization has become ``an instrument of powerful member states to advance agendas that serve their own interests rather than those of the global community of nations.''

It said senior UN officials failed to respond to warnings of a possible attack from Babacar Ndiaye, the security adviser in the Algiers office. It described poor communication between Algiers and UN headquarters in New York and the refusal of local government leaders to make security improvements sought by the UN.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bill Varner at the United Nations

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