Darfur rebels release UN peacekeepers | News | DW | 20.02.2012
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Darfur rebels release UN peacekeepers

Rebels in Sudan's Darfur region have released 49 international peacekeepers. The Justice and Equality Movement had suspected the soldiers might be helping the government to spy on rebel activities.

The Sudanese rebel group Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) said on Monday evening it had released 49 international peacekeepers who were held for "investigation" after they entered a rebel-held area.

The United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission (UNAMID) troops - mainly from Senegal - had been under suspicion because they were accompanied by three individuals suspected of being security officials, the Darfur group said.

"All peacekeepers are free but we are holding three Sudanese accompanying them," said a JEM spokesman.

JEM had said earlier that the peacekeepers had been detained after entering a rebel-controlled area without permission. It said that if suspicions of UNAMID cooperation with Sudanese authorities in spying on rebels were confirmed, JEM would ask the UN for the head of the UNAMID force to be fired.

A UNAMID spokeswoman said the three detained were civilians working for the peacekeeping mission, not the government. "They are not spies," she said.

From the group of soldiers, 46 were said to be from Senegal, with one each from Yemen, Ghana and Rwanda.

Non-Arab rebels took up arms against the Sudanese government in 2003, complaining that the western region had been marginalized both economically and politically.

rc/mz (AFP, Reuters)