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SUDAN: UN condemns killing of AU soldiers in Darfur

NAIROBI, 7 March 2007 (IRIN) - The United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) on Wednesday condemned the killing of two soldiers serving in the African Union (AU) peacekeeping force in Sudan's troubled western region of Darfur, stressing that attacks against AU personnel constituted a grave violation of international law.

According to the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS), the two soldiers were abducted and subsequently killed in the town of Gereida, South Darfur, on 5 March. A third soldier was seriously injured during the incident, AMIS said, adding that the attackers were believed to be "elements belonging to SLM/A [Sudan Liberation Movement/Army]" faction led by Minni Minnawi.

"Preliminary accounts of the incident indicate that the perpetrators are known elements in Gereida who could be easily identified," AMIS added. It urged the SLM/A to cooperate fully with investigators probing the attack. Minnawi's faction of the SLM/A is one of the rebel groups that signed a largely ignored peace agreement with the Sudanese government in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, in May 2006.

The killings bring to 11 the total number of AMIS military casualties in Darfur, in addition to dozens of car hijackings since the force was deployed there in 2004, according to AMIS. The mission said that on the day of the attack, the Darfur Peace Agreement Implementation Office in El Fasher, North Darfur, had been surrounded by about 30 armed people. "They threatened the Officer-in-Charge of the facility," it said.

UNMIS expressed deep concern at the repeated attacks targeting those who had the mandate to assist people affected by the conflict in Darfur, particularly AMIS and humanitarian workers. "UNMIS called on all parties to the Darfur conflict to respect the neutral and impartial status of AMIS and recalled that any attack against the African Union personnel deployed in Darfur is a serious violation of international law and relevant resolutions of the United Nations Security Council," UNMIS said in its statement.

It deplored the fact that those who carried out previous attacks and car-jackings remained unidentified and at large.

In February, the International Committee of the Red Cross said fighting had escalated in many parts of Darfur, forcing people to flee to more remote areas where it was harder for aid workers to reach them.

Civilians who stayed in their villages were unable to tend their fields or go to local markets because of the violence and insecurity, while traditional survival methods have broken down.

The Darfur conflict began in 2003 when rebels took up arms against the government in Khartoum, accusing it of neglect and discrimination against the region. The government responded by arming militias known as the Janjawid in a bid to suppress the uprising. The militias have been widely accused of carrying out a scorched-earth campaign of murder, rape and pillage that has targeted mainly non-Arab inhabitants of Darfur.

An estimated two million people have been made homeless by the conflict, which has since spilled over into eastern Chad and northeastern Central African Republic.

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Copyright © IRIN 2007
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
IRIN is a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.



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