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AU Investigating Deadly Attack on Darfur Peacekeeping Base

01 October 2007

African Union officials are investigating who attacked an AU peacekeeping base in Sudan's Darfur region and killed at least 10 African soldiers.

AU military officers have blamed Darfur rebels for the attack, although none of the region's various rebel groups has claimed responsibility.

The Sudanese army helped the AU secure and evacuate the Haskanita base following the attack late Saturday.

The African Union says a large group of gunmen carried out a "sustained assault" on the camp, killing the soldiers, wounding several others, and looting AU equipment.

AU officials say they have found some of the more than 40 people who were reported missing after the attack.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has condemned the attack and says the perpetrators must be held accountable.

The African Union says the casualties were the most serious losses AU peacekeepers have suffered since they were deployed to Darfur in 2004.

Egypt's foreign minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit says the violence confirms the need to send a joint African Union - United Nations force to Darfur as soon as possible.

Darfur, in western Sudan, has endured more than four years of fighting between rebel groups, militias and Sudanese government forces. The U.N. estimates the fighting has killed 200,000 people, and driven more than two million others from their homes.

Even before the latest attack, the current AU force of 7,000 peacekeepers was seen as overwhelmed by the fighting. The force is due to be strengthened next year with 19,000 additional troops and police, operating under joint U.N. and AU oversight.

Peace talks between the various Darfur rebel groups and the Sudanese government are scheduled to begin in Tripoli, Libya, on October 27.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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