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Wreath Laying Ceremony for Fallen Peacekeepers
In a bustling visitors lobby at the UN Headquarters in New York, UN staff led by Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon mourned the loss of at least 40 of their colleagues, who died in the line of duty over the past week, with a wreath-laying ceremony on Wednesday.
The ceremony, which started at 9:00 a.m. EDT, also included a moment of silence. At the same time, the blue UN flag flew at half- staff in the iconic glass building. Around the world on Wednesday, the world body flew its flag at half-mast.
"Today my thoughts are with the victims and their families, with all those who serve in so many dangerous and difficult places under the flag of the UN," Ban said, after he bowed down in front of the wreath and held it for an intense three seconds.
Other senior UN officials present at the ceremony included Susana Malcorra, UN under-secretary-general for field support, and Alain Le Roy, UN under-secretary-general for peacekeeping operations.
A moment of silence closed the ceremony, followed by UN staff members hugging each other.
Since last Wednesday UN staff perished in Haiti, Cote d'Ivoire, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Darfur region of Sudan.
On March 30, Captain Sultan Al Shraah of Jordan, who was a member of the police contingent of the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti, was killed on patrol in the capital Port-au-Prince.
The next day, the information analyst of the UN mission in Cote d'Ivoire, Zahra Abidi, died after being hit by a stray bullet in the strife-torn commercial capital of the West African nation, Abidjan.
Next were three international staff and four international security guards of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, who perished on Friday in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif after being attacked by a mob of some 3,000 people angered by a U. S. pastor's burning of a copy of the Islamic holy book Koran.
On Monday, a UN aircraft -- carrying both UN and non-UN personnel -- crashed on landing in the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, killing 32 people on board.
"The roster of the fallen, in recent days, has been shocking and profoundly sad," Ban said, noting that the UN stands in solidarity with their friends and families -- "united in sorrow, but united also in our mission."
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