An Indian American working with the United Nations Development Project was killed in Kabul, Afghanistan Nov. 24 when the vehicle he was travelling in with two colleagues was attacked.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Raj’s death at a press briefing Nov. 26, during which he discussed other acts of terrorism, including the three-day terrorist attack in Mumbai which began Nov. 26, 2008 and lasted for three days, killing an estimated 176 people. “It is an affront to the victims and their families that those who planned the Mumbai attack still have not been convicted,” he stated.
Discussing the incident in Kabul, Pompeo said: “I want to confirm with a heavy heart that a United States citizen, Anil Raj of California, was killed in a terrorist attack on a UN vehicle in Kabul on Nov. 24.” He added that there were five other civilians who were injured, including staff.
“Attacks targeting UN personnel working to help the Afghan people are unconscionable, and we condemn this act in the strongest possible terms,” said Pompeo, extending his condolences to the families and friends of the victims.
No organization had taken responsibility for the attack as of press time Nov. 26. The Taliban and the Islamic State are active in the capital and have repeatedly claimed previous attacks, reported The Associated Press.
Raj, 34, had worked with the UNDP for more than nine years, serving in several countries, including Myanmar and South Sudan, according to his LinkedIn profile. He had previously served in Afghanistan from 2015 to 2018 and returned to the country earlier this month as a management specialist for UNDP, after spending a year in the San Francisco Bay Area as an independent consultant.
UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner confirmed the attack, but did not name Raj in a statement released Nov. 25. “On behalf of the United Nations Development Program, I wish to express our deepest condolences to the family of our colleague who was killed and wish a speedy recovery to all those who were injured in this senseless attack,” he said.
“UNDP joins the Secretary-General in condemning in the strongest possible terms this attack and in calling for the perpetrators to be brought to justice. Our dedicated staff will continue to serve the Government and people of Afghanistan, as the country strives for peace and development,” said Steiner.
Before joining the UNDP, Raj worked with Amnesty International, serving as the country specialist for Myanmar from his post based in Washington, DC. He served on Amnesty International’s Board of Directors for a year, beginning in 2010.
Raj grew up in Saratoga, California and attended Saratoga High School. He then attended UC Riverside, graduating in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. He then attended the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver in Colorado.
Fellow alumnus Mackenzie McGrath wrote in a public Facebook post: “You will be missed Anil Raj. You were a lover of life, a joy to be around and the most kind and open-hearted soul I knew.”
“I am fortunate to have known you and for our lives to have crossed. Thank you for being you and for doing what you believed in,” wrote McGrath.