April 19, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - A Nigerian peacekeeper from the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) was shot dead and two others injured early on Friday in an attack by unidentified assailants on the agency’s base near Muhajeria in East Darfur.
- UNAMID soldier (File/Getty)
In a statement, UNAMID said it is investigating the events surrounding the incident and is currently working with the Sudanese government to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice, adding that “any attack on international peacekeepers is a crime under international law”.
Both Muhajeria and Labado have been the scene of fierce fighting between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and rebels from a faction of the Sudan Liberation Movement led by Minni Minnawi (SLM-MM), who seized control of the strategic towns earlier this month
A spokesperson for the UN secretary-general, Ban-Ki Moon, said he was “appalled and saddened", by the fatal shooting.
“The secretary-general expresses his deepest condolences to the government of Nigeria and to the family and colleagues of the fallen peacekeeper”, the spokesperson said.
The secretary-general condemned those responsible for the attack “in the strongest terms”, urging authorities to hold the perpetrators criminally accountable.
The UN Security Council (UNSC) also issued a statement strongly condemning the attack on UNAMID peacekeepers, urging the Sudanese government to “swiftly to investigate the incident and bring the perpetrators to justice”.
Violence in the two towns has forced thousands of civilians to flee their homes, with an estimated 18,000 seeking refuge around UNAMID bases in the area.
The attack on UNAMID comes as the SAF this week regained control of the towns after the SLA-MM withdrew.
Both towns are located in strategic positions along main routes used by traders and humanitarians to move supplies from Khartoum through East Darfur to South Darfur.
Sudanese authorities have been accused of obstructing the delivery of aid to needy civilians, with displaced populations still waiting for much-needed relief supplies.
Ban-Ki’s spokesperson said the secretary-general remained deeply concerned about the restrictions imposed on UNAMID and humanitarian agencies by the Sudanese authorities, which are preventing the delivery of aid to civilians affected by the recent clashes.
“He calls on the authorities to immediately allow UNAMID and humanitarian actors to have full and unhindered access to civilians in need of assistance”, the spokesperson said.
The SLM-MM has been critical of the role of UNAMID during the conflict, with its military spokesperson Adam Saleh Abakr slamming Darfur peacekeepers for failing to protect civilians, claiming that some of the dead were among those who had gathered outside the mission’s base in Labado seeking protection.
He accused the militiamen who entered Labado during clashes with SAF soldiers of killing nine civilians, wounding five and torturing two others.
Friday’s attack brings the number of peacekeepers killed in Darfur to 44 soldiers.
Last October, four Nigerian soldiers were killed in West Darfur state.
The joint mission has been deployed in Darfur since December 2007 has now 20,852 uniformed personnel on the ground, mostly from African countries.