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Five African peacekeepers killed in Darfur


April 2, 2007 (KHARTOUM) — Gunmen killed five African peacekeepers in Darfur in the deadliest attack to hit the embattled contingent since it was first deployed in the western Sudanese region in 2004.

The deadly shooting came against a backdrop of renewed violence in Darfur and a day after a helicopter carrying the pan-African force’s deputy commander came under fire.

"The AMIS (African Mission in Sudan) protection force soldiers were attacked by armed men as they guarded a watering point in Umm Barru in northwest Darfur," spokesman Nureddin Mezni said.

The attack near the Chadian border took place late Sunday.

"Four were killed and one seriously injured while the attackers lost three combatants," Mezni said.

He added that the wounded soldier died Monday of his injuries after "severe weather conditions" made evacuation impossible.

According to Mezni, the attack brought to 15 the number of African Union troops killed in Darfur since they were first deployed in 2004. Another soldier has been missing for months.

Mezni condemned the killing, deploring the fact that "African soldiers who came to help restore peace in Darfur should be targeted in such attacks".

"We are shocked by this unprovoked attack," he said.

The AMIS spokesman gave no immediate indication as to who might have been behind the shooting.

A helicopter carrying the deputy commander of the African peacekeeping force came under fire Saturday as it was on its way from Zalengei in western Darfur to the AMIS headquarters in El-Fasher.

Nobody was injured but Mezni desribed the incident as very serious and added it would be investigated.

Sunday’s attack came amid mounting ethnic unrest in Darfur, where at least 62 members of an Arab tribe were killed in a massive attack on Saturday.

The African Union has some 7,000 troops deployed in the region but the under-funded and ill-equipped contingent has failed to stem the violence.

Only one of three negotiating rebel groups signed a peace deal with the Khartoum government in Abuja in May last year. The agreement made no impact and led rebel factions to splinter, causing more violence.

According to the United Nations, at least 200,000 people have died and more than two million fled their homes since the conflict erupted in February 2003. Some sources say the death toll is much higher.

The international community has pressured Khartoum to accept the replacement of African troops by a more robust UN peacekeeping force but President Omar al-Beshir has consistently rejected any such move.


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