AU to pursue Darfur peacekeepers’ killers

REGIONAL - United Nations Security Council members condemned the killing of ten peacekeepers in Sudan’s Darfur region but failed to agree on a formal statement as the African Union (AU) began probing the unprecedented attack.
United Nations’ chief Ban Ki-moon
United Nations’ chief Ban Ki-moon

REGIONAL - United Nations Security Council members condemned the killing of ten peacekeepers in Sudan’s Darfur region but failed to agree on a formal statement as the African Union (AU) began probing the unprecedented attack.

The weekend attack by a large, organised group of heavily armed fighters who overran the Haskanita camp in around 30 vehicles was the worst assault on the under-manned force since it deployed in July 2004.

“The inquiry is underway and we will make its conclusions public. Those who carried out this attack will be strongly sanctioned,” Noureddine Mezni, spokesman for the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) said.

Ghana’s UN Ambassador Leslie Christian, who chairs the 15-member Security Council this month, said no agreement could be reached on a formal statement on the attack during Monday’s closed-door session and it was decided to continue the discussions yesterday.

“The recent attack... was condemned,” Christian said. “There was a demand that no effort should be spared so the perpetrators are brought to justice.”

South Africa’s UN ambassador Dumisani Kumalo said: “That’s a very cruel terroristic attack. So we wanted very strong language.”

Sudan’s UN ambassador Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad said it was clear Darfur rebels were responsible.

He blamed some members of the Council who “gave mixed signals to the rebels by singling out only the government for criticism.”

“That made them (the rebels) intransigent and gave them the impression they can do it and get away with it,” he added.

The US called for a planned AU-UN force many times stronger than the current mission to reach Darfur “as soon as possible” Bush earlier directed US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to seek a new UN resolution to broaden economic sanctions on Sudan’s leaders, expand an arms embargo on Sudan, and bar Sudanese military flights over Darfur.

The Russian foreign ministry said Moscow condemned the attack which it said was designed to scupper international efforts to broker a comprehensive peace settlement.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon called on Darfur’s warring sides to recommit to a settlement, citing peace talks scheduled for Libya on October 27 and preparations for the joint deployment of AU-UN troops.

AU-UN joint envoy Rodolphe Adada, who flew to the main Darfur town of Al-Fasher to supervise the inquiry, said he was “appalled by the outrageous and deliberate attack.”

The Arab League, of which Sudan is a member, called for those responsible to be brought to justice.

The under-equipped African force of around 7,000 troops from 26 countries patrolling Darfur, a region the size of France, is due to begin being replaced later this year by the hybrid 26,000-strong AU-UN force.

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