KHARTOUM, Sudan – A rebel group in Sudan’s Darfur region accused government-linked militia on Sunday, July 14, of carrying out an ambush which killed seven peacekeepers and wounded 17.
“We don’t have any doubt that the act was done by government militia, because militia are deployed in Khor Abeche area,” said Abdullah Moursal, spokesman for the Sudan Liberation Army’s Minni Minnawi faction.
“This area is completely under government control.”
Officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
The United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur said the ambush by “a large unidentified group” struck on Saturday about 25 kilometers (16 miles) west of a UNAMID base at Khor Abeche, north of the South Darfur state capital Nyala.
In addition to the seven dead Tanzanian peacekeeping troops, 17 other military and police personnel were wounded in the attack, the worst in the five-year history of UNAMID.
Rebels have been fighting the government for a decade in Darfur but UNAMID says that clashes between rival tribal and ethnic groups have been responsible for most of the worsening unrest in Darfur this year.
UN experts, human rights activists and tribal leaders have accused government security forces of involvement in this year’s tribal fighting.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed outrage at the “heinous attack” and called on Khartoum to take swift action to bring the perpetrators to justice.
The UN has made repeated similar calls after attacks on its peacekeepers in Sudan, but UN sources say they are unaware of anyone having been held accountable.
About 50 UNAMID members have now died in hostile action since the mission began in late 2007. Before Saturday’s attack, six peacekeepers had been killed in Darfur since October.
Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird called the latest attack “reprehensible” and said Ottawa “is deeply concerned by the deteriorating security conditions in Darfur and across Sudan”.
An estimated 300,000 people have been displaced by violence in Darfur this year — more than in the last two years combined.
In April, a Nigerian peacekeeper was killed and two others wounded in an assault on their base east of Nyala.
The authorities denied suggestions from local sources that the attack appeared to have been planned and carried out by government-linked forces.
A UN panel of experts earlier this year reported that former pro-government militiamen had sometimes expressed their discontent with the current government through “direct attacks on UNAMID staff and premises”.
The Minnawi faction and other key rebel groups in Darfur refused to sign an internationally-backed peace deal signed two years ago between Khartoum and an alliance of rebel splinter factions.
A humanitarian source expressed doubt that rebels would have carried out the attack on UNAMID.
“When people are killed, probably it’s more militia,” he said, asking for anonymity.
UNAMID released few details of the ambush but said the patrol came under “heavy fire”, leading to an extended firefight until peacekeeping reinforcements arrived to rescue the team.
Last October, unidentified attackers fired mortars, machineguns, rocket-propelled grenades and anti-tank guns in an ambush which killed a South African peacekeeper and wounded three others in North Darfur.
UNAMID said at the time that that attack may have been a deliberate attempt to prevent the mission from assessing the situation in an area where violence had been reported.
UNAMID, with about 20,000 military and police peacekeepers, is one of the largest such missions in the world, and has a mandate to protect civilians. – Rappler.com