12 May, 2021

Hitting A Sanctuary

Letter bombs at the UN underline the world body's vulnerability

Hitting A Sanctuary

IT was an attempt unprecedented in the history of the United Nations. The four letter bombs discovered at the world body on January 13 had been targeted at the UN bureau of the Al-Hayat, an Arabic newspaper. But the fact that the bombs had arrived at an organisation created to offer a neutral, international forum for dialogue outside the spheres of national governments caused universal outrage. "This is a house of peace and we work in the interest of all nations. This kind of activity is not something that anyone can condone," said UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Several of Al-Hayat's other offices have been singled out over the past weeks. Two such bombs arrived at the paper's Riyadh bureau on January 4 and 11, while five went to the Al-Hayat office in Washington DC. All the bombs were defused, except for two which critically injured two employees at the paper's London headquarters on January 13. The London explosion prompted Rashida Dergham, the paper's UN correspondent, to immediately alert the UN secretary to screen her...

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