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Attack one of the worst in U.N. history

A large explosion ripped through U.N. headquarters at the Canal Hotel in Baghdad, Iraq.
A large explosion ripped through U.N. headquarters at the Canal Hotel in Baghdad, Iraq.

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(CNN) -- Tuesday's truck bomb attack on U.N. headquarters in Baghdad that killed the senior U.N. official in Iraq is one of the worst incidents in the international organization's history.

The truck bombing killed at least 17 people and wounded 100. Eight of the dead were from the United Nations' New York offices. U.N. envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello was killed in the blast, U.N. officials said.

"All of us at the United Nations are shocked and dismayed by today's attack, in which many of our colleagues have been injured and an unknown number have lost their lives -- Iraqis as well as international staff," U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a written statement.

U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said that while bombs have been thrown and grenades lobbed at U.N. buildings in the past, he was unaware of any previous attack of this magnitude.

"It's the first to my recollection, that an attack on a U.N. headquarters had grievously injured the special representative, members of his staff, other U.N. employees in the building, certainly on this scale," he said. "So it's an unusual thing for the United Nations to be targeted when our objective in that country, I think, which should be recognized by all, is to just help Iraqis get back on their feet."

Attacks against U.N. personnel began to rise in the 1990s, a decade which also saw an increase in U.N. peacekeeping operations.

In U.N. peacekeeping operations, 1,828 military and civilian personnel from more than 100 countries have died in the line of duty since 1948, including 64 peacekeepers in 2002. As of July 31, 27 U.N. peacekeepers have been killed in 2003.

More than 210 U.N. civilian staff have been killed as a result of malicious acts since 1992 and some 265 taken hostage while serving in U.N. operations worldwide, according to the U.N. In 1998, 27 U.N. staff members were killed in the field, the first year that more U.N. civilian personnel have been killed than military personnel.

Earlier this year, the headquarters of the U.N. Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) was attacked by militias and the U.N. official there was wounded with a machete.

In September 2000, three U.N. staff members were killed when a mob of East Timorese refugees and pro-Indonesia militia went on a rampage in a West Timor border town, destroying two U.N. offices.

In 1999, crowds angry about the sanctions imposed on Afghanistan by the U.N. Security Council smashed windows and doors, furniture and computers and set fire to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Kabul and other offices in that country, causing extensive damage.


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