A Swiss staff member of the International Committee of the Red Cross was killed in an ambush on Wednesday in the Libyan city of Sirte, prompting questions about whether the group will again suspend work in the country as it did in 2012.
Michael Greub, the head of ICRC’s subdelegation in Misrata, was heading back to his car after a meeting when unidentified gunmen shot at him and two colleagues. Greub was founded and later died in a hospital in Sirte. His two colleagues were unharmed but “in shock,” according to ICRC spokesman Wolde Saugeron.
Greub worked in a number of hotspots for the past seven years under ICRC, carrying out missions in Iraq, Sudan, Yemen and Gaza, before taking up the post in Misrata in March.
ICRC is “devastated and outraged” and condemns the murder in the “strongest possible terms,” Director-General Yves Daccord said in a news release.
This is not the first time the organization suffered a loss in Libya, specifically in Misrata. In 2012, unidentified gunmen attacked the organization's residence there, prompting ICRC to suspend all operations in the city as well as in Benghazi. The attacks were seen as deliberately targeting ICRC staff, which then-head Ishfaq Muhamad Khan attributed to “misunderstandings and mistrust” against the organization. ICRC started having a permanent presence in the country only in 2011. Some perceive the Red Cross as a Christian organization because of its cross emblem; others associate it with Western agencies.
The ICRC vehicle Greub and his colleagues were using didn’t carry the usual ICRC insignia, which the organization uses as a shield of protection for its own staff and facilities. Saugeron has said this is the organization’s “operational policy in Libya.”
Libya has been in turmoil at least since 2011, fighting between the government and its opponents have intensified in recent months in major cities like Benghazi. ICRC and the Libyan Red Crescent voiced concerns earlier this month about the impact of the violence on health care delivery in the area. A Red Crescent-supported hospital in Benghazi had to close after suffering heavy damage from an attack.
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