Seven UN peacekeepers were killed in Sudan on Saturday when they were ambushed by gunmen in the western region of Darfur. Another 17 peacekeepers were wounded in the incident.
The gunmen used machine guns and possible rocket-propelled grenades in the attack about 15 miles west of the town of Khor Abeche. Reinforcements arrived later and rescued the wounded, including two female police advisers.
Peacekeepers have been targeted by militant groups in the area in the past since the international force first arrived in 2008. A Nigerian peacekeeper was killed in East Darfur State in April.
No group has claimed responsibility for killing the seven UN peacekeepers so far and UN forces spokesman Chris Cycmanick did not give the nationalities of those killed and wounded.
There is virtually no system of law and order in Sudan’s Darfur region, where mainly African tribes took up arms against the Arab-led government in 2003. Violence has been on the rise in January, as government forces, rebels, and Arab tribes continue to fight over land and resources.
The seven UN peacekeepers killed were on a patrol at the time. While their nationalities were not given, the African Union/United Nations-led UNAMID force stated that the area in Darfur is the responsibility of Tanzanian forces.
There are more than 16,000 UN peacekeepers in Sudan and diplomats have said that they are struggling with equipment issues, poor training of some contingents, and the reluctance of some governments to send their troops to dangerous regions.
The force also has no joint command, making it more difficult to coordinate and get troops out to hotspots rapidly. The United Nations estimates that about 300,000 people have been forced from their homes by fighting so far this year. Darfur is also the region of alleged war crimes by Sudan’s Presidnet Oma Hassain al-Bashir.
Mohammed Ibn Chambas, a joint special representative of the force where the seven UN peacekeepers were from, stated of their deaths:
“The mission condemns in the strongest possible terms those responsible for this heinous attack on our peacekeepers. The perpetrators should be on notice that they will be pursued for this crime and gross violation of international humanitarian law.”
[Image via UN]