UN in Iraq marks 20th anniversary of deadly bombing at its headquarters
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Top Iraqi and United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq officials on early Saturday commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Canal Hotel bombing, which killed dozens of the international organization’s staff, including its envoy, in 2003.
Iraqi Minister of Foreign Affairs Fuad Hussein and the UN envoy in Iraq Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert took part in the commemoration event, which also marked World Humanitarian Day.
Iraq is committed to combating terrorism globally, Foreign Minister Hussein said in a speech, adding the country, which had been battered by decades of conflict, will continue assisting victims of terror.
In Aug. 2003, an explosives-laden cement truck pulled in front of Baghdad’s Canal Hotel, which was serving as UN headquarters, and exploded at a time when its leadership and staff were gathered for meetings.
The attack left 22 staffers dead, including the head of the Iraq mission, Sergio Vieira de Mello. Another 150 were wounded in the blast.
Foreign Minister Hussein described the bombing as “one of the tragic days” in Iraq’s history.
“That tragedy marked a change in the way humanitarians operate,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in his message on Saturday, highlighting the threats that humanitarians still face.
An Islamist radical group dubbed Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, claimed responsibility for the attack. In the years that followed, the organization went through several iterations, later known as al-Qaeda in Iraq, and eventually, ISIS.
Following the tragedy, the UN designated Aug. 19 as the annual World Humanitarian Day.
The international organization commemorates the tragic event every year at its offices in Baghdad, Basra, Kirkuk, and Erbil.