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All Australian Red Cross aid workers in Aceh safe

Friday June 24, 2005

All 7 Australian Red Cross aid workers positioned in Indonesia are reported safe and secure, following a shooting incident on June 22 in which a Hong Kong Red Cross aid worker was injured.

'This incident is very worrying for Red Cross, given that it happened on a field trip for which all parties were notified about and it received all proper clearances. Also, the vehicle was clearly marked with Red Cross signage,' said Mr Dale Cleaver, Acting CEO of Australian Red Cross.

Coming on the eve of the 6-month anniversary since the Boxing Day tsunami killed over 200,000 and wiped out entire villages, the incident is a stark reminder of the challenges and dangers of delivering humanitarian aid and implementing rehabilitation programs in areas of conflict.

'The details of the incident are not yet fully known, but we have been advised that all Australian staff are okay and accounted for. Their families back home have been made aware of the incident and standard Red Cross security procedures have been put in place to ensure the safety of our aid workers,' added Mr Cleaver.

The Red Cross activities in Aceh province have not been suspended, but all personnel are on standby until the incident has been further assessed by the security staff.

'Yet again we see the difficulties and dangers that Australian and other aid workers face. The rehabilitation and recovery process in Aceh province will most likely take years, and we need the guarantees of all parties that our staff will not be targeted,' concluded Mr Cleaver.

The Red Cross calls on all parties to respect the neutrality and impartiality of Red Cross staff and allow it to carry out its humanitarian mission without hindrance.