A U.N. refugee worker was killed and a second was kidnapped in a raid today in West Africa, officials said. The motive for the attack was not immediately clear.
Mensah Kpognon, 50, of Togo, was slain at his home by unknown gunmen in the southeastern Guinea town of Macenta, near the border with Liberia, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said.
UNHCR said it had heard that the attackers abducted another of its staff members, Sapeu Laurence Djeya of the Ivory Coast.
The raid came nearly two weeks after the slaying of three U.N. staff members in Indonesian-controlled West Timor.
“Yet another humanitarian has been savagely killed trying to help refugees,” said Frederick Barton, deputy high commissioner, at the agency’s Geneva headquarters. “We haven’t even buried our three other colleagues murdered in West Timor 10 days ago, and now we have lost another friend and co-worker.”
A statement by UNHCR headquarters said Kpognon had contacted the agency’s offices in the Guinean capital, Conakry, at 6:30 a.m. today to report unrest in the Macenta and to say that attackers had burned the town’s military garrison two hours earlier.
UNHCR officials in Macenta were sent to check on Kpognon after he lost contact with Conakry, and found his body at his house, the agency said.
“He had apparently been shot by the retreating gunmen,” the statement said. “His house had been burned, as well as a UNHCR vehicle parked outside.” It said several bodies were seen in the streets of the town.
The agency said it had issued an urgent appeal to governments in the region to join in the effort to obtain the release of Djeya, the female staffer.
It was unclear what led the attack that killed Kpognon, who studied at the University of Iowa in 1984-85.
Cross Border Raids
Guinea hosts more than 460,000 refugees, one of the largest refugee populations in Africa. Some 330,000 are from Sierra Leone and 126,000 from Liberia.
Most of the refugees in the Macenta area are Liberian, but some Sierra Leonean refugees have fled into the area recently following attacks by Sierra Leonean rebels.
There have been several cross-border raids into Guinea recently.
UNHCR noted that the government has said at least 80 people were killed by anti-Guinean dissidents in attacks on several Guinean villages near the borders of Sierra Leone and Liberia.
It said some 50 people were killed Sept. 1 in an attack on Massadou village, about 15 miles from Macenta.
The Guinean government blamed the attack on gunmen from Liberia. Liberia has accused Guinea of harboring rebels who crossed into northern Liberia in July and have been fighting government forces there ever since.
Tensions have been high toward refugees in Guinea recently. There have been a number of attacks on refugees in Conakry and elsewhere in the past week since President Lansana Conte accused them in a television broadcast of harboring anti-Guinean dissidents.