U.N. peacekeeper killed in Darfur ambush

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 29, 2012 1:44 PM
U.N. peacekeeper killed in Darfur ambush

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - A U.N.-African Union peacekeeper was killed and three others were wounded in Sudan's conflict-torn western Darfur region on Wednesday when their patrol was ambushed, the United Nations said.

"A patrol moving from Nyala to Shearia in south Darfur was ambushed at Baraka village. The initial reports indicate that three peacekeepers were wounded and one was killed," said U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky. No further details were available.

Violence in Darfur, where the United Nations and the African Union maintain a huge joint peacekeeping operation, has subsided since its peak in 2003 and 2004, but rebel and tribal fighting and banditry still plagues the territory.

Mostly African insurgents in Darfur took up arms against the Arab-dominated government in 2003, accusing authorities of neglecting the remote territory. Khartoum mobilized troops and allied Arab tribes to quell the rebellion, and the United Nations estimates some 300,000 people have died in the conflict.

The International Criminal Court has indicted Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and other officials for war crimes in the region. Khartoum has put the death toll at 10,000 and dismissed the charges as politically motivated and baseless.

Separately, the U.N. peacekeeping department will brief the Security Council later on Wednesday about reports that rebels killed some 130 members of the Sudanese army near the border with South Sudan.

Rebel groups in Sudan claimed credit on Monday for the previous day's attack, saying they had captured a Sudanese army garrison near the border with the south in an operation that Khartoum blamed on the south's army.

The South Sudan government said none of its forces were involved, but the assault has fueled tensions between the neighbors already at odds over oil exports and border disputes. Any involvement of southern forces would have violated a non-aggression pact signed by the two sides this month.

The clashes on Sunday took place in the South Kordofan province on Sudan's side of the ill-defined border with South Sudan, a flashpoint between the two countries.

South Sudan seceded from the north last July in line with a referendum held in accordance with a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols and Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Vicki Allen)