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UN chief mourns death of four peacekeepers in Abyei

August 2, 2011 (KHARTOUM) – The United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on Tuesday expressed sadness over the death of four Ethiopian peacekeepers in Abyei.

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FILE - Zambian soldiers serving as part of the Force Reserve Battalion with the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) stand together as they prepare to depart on a patrol in Abyei town May 25, 2011 (Reuters)

"The secretary general expresses his deepest condolences to the families, friends and colleagues of those killed, as well to the government of Ethiopia," said Ban’s spokesperson.

"He also expresses his concern for the well-being of the seven other peacekeepers who were injured in the explosion."

Abyei is a contested region that lies on the borders of Sudan and the newly independent state of South Sudan. Both sides agreed to withdraw all their forces from the oil rich district and allow for the deployment of peacekeepers from Ethiopia.

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) last June authorized the 4,200 strong force as the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA).

A landmine detonated in the village of Mabok, around 30 kilometers (20 miles) southeast of the territory’s main town of Abyei killing the four soldiers and badly wounding seven others who were airlifted to South Kordofan state capital of Kadugli.

The village was previously under the control of Sudan Armed Forces (SAF). Sudan is a signatory to the Ottawa treaty banning the use of anti-personnel mines.

Abyei’s status was supposed to be decided in a referendum last January but the vote stalled due to disagreements between Khartoum and Juba on who is eligible to vote. It has yet to be determined how this will be resolved.

(ST)