UN peacekeepers ambushed in North Darfur, 1 killed
A UNAMID peacekeeper has been killed and another three were injured in an ambush at approximately 10 kilometres from Hashaba in North Darfur on Wednesday morning. The peacekeepers were victims of a combined arms attack involving automatic weapons and mortar fire, a UNAMID press statement reads.
Witnesses recounted to Radio Dabanga that the UN convoy was ambushed by pro-government militiamen. They said that an unknown armed group opened fire on the convoy from one of the mountains in Wadi Berbey, at around 30 kilometers north of Kutum. The witnesses noted seeing a number of Land Cruiser vehicles and camels and horses inside the valley behind the mountains.
UNAMID peacekeepers returned fire and withdrew its convoy back towards Kutum, the witnesses added to Radio Dabanga.
The UN mission confirmed that the incident occurred at 10:00 a.m. while its convoy was on its way from Kutum to Hashaba to assess the situation in the region, following recent reports of violence in the area.
The mission’s leader Acting Joint Special Representative Aichatou Mindaoudou said: “I condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the second criminal attack on our brave peacekeepers in the course of this month, during which we have lost five peacekeepers. These attacks will not shake our resolve to fulfil our mandate and help the people of Darfur. I call on the Government of Sudan to investigate the incident and bring the perpetrators to justice,” she added.
UN delegation was headed toward rebel SLM-MM
At the time of the ambush the armed UN convoy was carrying a delegation toward an appointment with SLM-MM rebels. Ahmed Saleh, military spokesman of SLM-MM, told Radio Dabanga that UNAMID contacted the rebels on Monday, two days before the attack, to notify them about the upcoming visit of a delegation of UNAMID and other UN agencies to Hashaba.
The spokesman added that the delegation was due to arrive on Wednesday morning to investigate the recent incidents in Hashaba. Saleh continued that the mission contacted rebels on Wednesday morning to confirm its departure from Kutum at 07:00 in the morning and estimated arrival in Hashaba at 11:00.
Saleh stated they contacted the mission after noon and found all cell phones closed. He added to Radio Dabanga that the mission contacted them at two o'clock in the afternoon and informed them that the convoy was not able to reach Hashaba, as they were exposed to a 'critical situation'. It was decided that their meeting will be rescheduled.
The spokesman said they learned later that the delegation was ambushed shortly after their departure from Kutum, he added to Radio Dabanga from Hashaba.
JEM says ambush was part of cover-up
The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), for its part, condemned the attack on the UNAMID convoy and held the Government of Sudan responsible for the incident. According to JEM, the ambush was aiming to prevent the investigation committee from identifying the perpetrators of the recent Hashaba massacre.
Jibril Adam Beleil, JEM military spokesman, urged through Radio Dabanga to the international community to expedite the formation of an international investigation committee to investigate the incidents in Hashaba and Gubba. The spokesman renewed the movement's demand to expand UNAMID's mandate to protect civilians.