updated 10/1/2008 8:58:18 PM ET 2008-10-02T00:58:18

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned Wednesday that United Nations staff and humanitarian field workers are being deliberately targeted for attack by extremists and armed groups at an alarming rate.

In a report to the U.N. General Assembly, Ban said the number of deaths of U.N. civilian staff members as a result of malicious acts rose to 25 in the year ending June 30, 2008 up from 16 the previous year.

The year ending in June was also the worst in recorded history for humanitarian and other nongovernmental organizations, which lost 63 national and international workers to malicious acts, he said.

"I'm gravely concerned by the wide scale of threats, the rise in deliberate targeting of humanitarian and U.N. personnel and their vulnerability worldwide," the secretary-general said in his report. "The security of humanitarian and United Nations personnel continues to deteriorate."

Ban called for U.N. security efforts to be strengthened but he said host governments are mainly responsible for the protection of U.N. workers.

The secretary-general urged all 192 U.N. member states to address the unlawful arrest and harassment of U.N. staff and obstructions to their free movement, while stepping up punishments from people committing crimes against them.

During the year ending in June, he said U.N. workers were attacked by "extremists, armed groups and disgruntled sections of populations in all areas of humanitarian and United Nations operations," while threats against them increased.

17 killed in Algeria
The December attack against U.N. offices in the Algerian capital, Algiers, in which 17 U.N. staff members were killed, provides stark evidence of this disturbing trend, he said.

The secretary-general said factors in the growth of malicious incidents include the expansion of U.N. operations; rising criminality; the spread of terrorist tactics; and sharp increases in food and fuel prices leading to violent protests.

During the year ending in June, Ban said, there were 490 non-fatal attacks on U.N. operations, 578 robberies, 263 physical assaults and 199 vehicle hijackings.

Incidents against humanitarian organizations reported to the U.N. during the same period included 236 attacks on operations, 41 assaults, 113 robberies, and 50 hijackings, he said.

Most of the security incidents directed against U.N. staff occurred in Africa, including 20 of the 25 U.N. deaths, Ban said.

He singled out the 297 incidents against U.N. personnel in Sudan, including the killing of five contracted drivers for the U.N. World Food Program and said the trend of politically or criminally motivated targeting of humanitarians is most evident in Somalia, where 18 NGO staff members were murdered during the year ending in June.

Ban also cited Afghanistan, where U.N. and humanitarian staff "continue to face direct targeted attacks."

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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