Seven international peacekeepers have been killed in Sudan's Darfur region during an ambush by unknown assailants, the African Union-UN Mission has said. It's the deadliest attack in the mission's five-year history.
Saturday's attack happened near Khor Abeche in South Darfur, the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) said, when attackers struck a team of soldiers and police with gunfire and possibly rocket-propelled grenades.
"The UNAMID team came under heavy fire from a large unidentified group. Following an extended firefight, the patrol was extracted by UNAMID reinforcements," a statement said.
A spokesman, Christopher Cycmanick, said 17 peacekeepers were injured in the attack. The UNAMID has not disclosed the nationalities of those killed or wounded, but it is understood troops from Tanzania are in charge of the area.
No group has yet claimed responsibility. A statement issued on behalf of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon confirmed that the peacekeepers were Tanzanian.
"The secretary-general was outraged to learn of a deadly attack on peacekeepers in Darfur which occurred this morning," UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said. "The secretary-general condemns this heinous attack on UNAMID, the third in three weeks, and expects that the government of Sudan will take swift action to bring the perpetrators to justice."
The attack is the deadliest ever single attack on the international force in Sudan's western region of Darfur. More than 40 UNAMID members have died in hostile action since the mission was established in the beginning of 2008.
Darfur has been struck by violence since 2003, when mainly African tribes took up arms against the Arab-led government in Khartoum, which they accuse of discrimination. Years of international peace efforts have failed to end the conflict.
Violence is again on the rise after a peak in 2004-2005, amid fighting over resources and land between government forces, rebels and Arab tribes, which the government armed early in the conflict.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) indicted Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir in 2009 and issued an arrest warrant for Defense Minister Abdel Raheem Muhammad Hussein for alleged war crimes committed in Darfur. Al-Bashir is the world's first sitting head of state to be indicted by the ICC. He remains in office in Sudan.
The UN says more than 300,000 people have been forced to leave their homes in Darfur this year.
jr/msh (AFP, Reuters, AP)