August 13, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - A rebel faction of the Sudan Liberation Movement led by Minni Minnawi (SLM-MM) detains a Russian helicopter and its crew in South Darfur since ten days, a UN spokesperson said on Tuesday.
- A UNAMID Mi-8 helicopter brings ballot boxes and voting material to El Lait, North Darfur on for South Sudanese living in the area on 6 January 2011, days before the vote for self-determination (Photo UNAMID - Olivier Chassot)
"On 3 August 2013, the helicopter of an African Union/United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) contractor, tasked with delivering supplies to various UNAMID locations in South Darfur, made an emergency landing due to severe weather conditions", said UN deputy spokesperson Eduardo del Buey on Tuesday.
The Russian Mi-8 helicopter, landed at about 50 kilometres south-east of Nyala capital of South Darfur state where it captured by the rebels. According to TASS news agency, the crew-members include one Sudanese and two Ukrainians but there is no Russian among them.
While the UNAMID did not issue an official statement on the incident, del Buey announced that negotiations are under way "for the safe release of the crew".
The rebel group also did not make any statement about the detention of the helicopter. But, one of its leading members said they are still verifying the identity of the chopper and its crew-members.
"I think if it is a private (helicopter) then it will be released", said Hussein Minnawi, a member of the SLM-MM political bureau in statements to the AFP.
The SLM-MM is one of three main movements in Darfur that reject to join a framework document endorsed in 2011 to end Darfur conflict which started since more than ten years ago.
The group is part of an alliance including Darfur rebels and the SPLM-N calling to topple the regime or to negotiate a peace deal leading to ensure a regime change in Sudan.
UNAMID chief Mohamed Ibn Chambas will organize a meeting with Darfur rebel groups in Tanzania soon in order to re-energize efforts for peace in Darfur where there are nearly 1.5 displaced civilians
UNAMID deployed in 2008 as the largest and most expensive peacekeeping operation in the world, employing more than 25,000 military, police and civilian staff.
The agency’s core mandate is to provide protection to Darfuri civilians and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
In July, the UN Security Council (UNSC) renewed the mission’s mandate for a further 13 months, until 31 August 2014.
However, UNAMID continues to come under fire for being too close to the Sudanese government, with critics saying the agency had not been aggressive enough in fulfilling its core mandate of protecting civilians.