Secretary General Ban Deplores Deadly Consecutive Attacks Against Blue Helmets in Darfur

NEW YORK–(ENEWSPF)–8 December 2009 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today spoke out against the second deadly attack in as many days on peacekeepers serving with the joint African Union-United Nations mission in the war-ravaged Sudanese region of Darfur, issuing a call for the perpetrators to be brought to justice immediately.

On 5 December, troops serving with the mission, known as UNAMID, were ambushed at Shangil Tobaya in North Darfur while providing water to civilians. Two Rwandan blue helmets were killed in the attack, while another peacekeeper was injured.

That attack came on the heels of the 4 December incident in Saraf Umra, also in North Darfur, when a platoon comprising 20 Rwandan peacekeepers escorting a water tanker was attacked by unknown gunmen, killing three soldiers and injuring two others.

UNAMID reported on Sunday that the security situation in Darfur has deteriorated in the wake of the attacks.

“The Secretary-General reiterates the commitment of the AU-UN mission to carry out its important work in Darfur,” according to a statement issued by his spokesperson, noting the Sudanese Government’s “rapid action to apprehend the alleged perpetrators.”

Mr. Ban expressed his condolences to the families of the slain peacekeepers and to the Government of Rwanda, reiterating his appreciation for “their service and commitment to the search for peace in Darfur.”

The deaths resulting from these attacks, condemned yesterday by the Security Council, bring the total number of peacekeepers who have lost their lives in Darfur since UNAMID deployed at the start of 2008 to 22.

In July 2007 a joint police and military patrol from the preceding AU mission was ambushed by at least 200 attackers, leaving seven peacekeepers dead and 22 wounded.

The recent attacks follow the shooting and wounding of three other peacekeepers, also by unidentified gunmen, in West Darfur in October, and the killing of another in South Darfur in May, as well as the kidnapping of two UNAMID civilian staff members in August in West Darfur. They are still being held.

In a telephone conversation with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir yesterday, the Secretary-General urged the leader of the vast African nation to become directly involved in securing the release of the two staff members who have been held hostage for over 100 days, stressing that the situation is critical given that one of them is gravely ill.

In his latest report on UNAMID last month, Mr. Ban said increased threats to international staff, including “extremely alarming” kidnappings, military action by Chad, Sudan and rebels, and Government limits on peacekeepers” movements continued to hamper efforts to stabilize the Sudanese area torn apart by nearly seven years of war and suffering.

At least 300,000 people are estimated to have died and 2.7 million more have been driven from their homes in the fighting between the Government, its militia allies and various armed groups.

Almost two years after being set up, UNAMID has still only reached 69 per cent of its authorized troop strength – 14,638 military personnel out of the total 19,555, and 4,449 police – and still lacks key military elements, including two medium transport units, a level II hospital, an aerial reconnaissance unit, and 18 medium utility helicopters.