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Darfur in the News

U.S. and European Media

January 8 , 2008

Reuters: UN / AU Peacekeepers Ambushed In Sudan's Darfur. Armed men opened fire on a U.N./African Union supply convoy in Sudan's war-torn Darfur region, the first attack on the newly formed joint peacekeeping mission, officials said on Tuesday. A diplomatic source working in the region told Reuters Sudanese Army soldiers had fired at the convoy from the UN/AU Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) late on Monday, apparently confusing the peacekeepers for rebels. But UNAMID spokesman Noureddine Mezni said they were still investigating the incident and could not confirm the identity of the attackers. One civilian Sudanese driver was in a critical condition after being shot seven times, UNAMID said in a statement. Its forces were now at a "high state of alert" in Darfur. "The convoy came under fire from the Government of Sudan forces," said the diplomatic source in Darfur. "It is not clear how it happened. The convoy was traveling after 10 p.m. in the dark. They could have mistaken them for rebels. There have been a lot of things going on in that area recently." UNAMID said the convoy was taking food and fuel to a UNAMID outpost near the town of Tine close to the border of western Darfur state and Chad. "A UNAMID Supplies convoy was attacked last night, 7 January 2008, at approximately 2200 Hrs (1900 GMT), on its way from Umm Baru to Tine in Western Darfur. "The road convoy was on a re-supply mission to UNAMID team sites in the area between Um Baru, Tine and Kulbus, an area which has witnessed violent clashes between the government of Sudan and rebel movements and where UNAMID air operations have been restricted due to the security concerns." UNAMID troops guarding the convoy had not returned fire and none were injured, said the statement.

Reuters: Too few troops deployed in Darfur-U.N.'s Ban. The situation is deteriorating in the western Sudanese region of Darfur and an existing peacekeeping force is too small to deal with it, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Monday. Last week a joint U.N.-African Union (AU) mission took over peacekeeping in Darfur from a purely AU force, seeking to end almost five years of fighting. But the swapping of green AU berets for U.N. blue ones is unlikely to bring rapid change. "I as the secretary-general and the United Nations as a whole ... must ensure the rapid deployment of hybrid operations as agreed to the level of 26,000 (peacekeepers) as soon as possible," Ban told reporters at his first news conference of 2008. "We have now 9,000 re-hatted soldiers in Darfur. That's not sufficient. That is why we are very concerned about the ongoing deteriorating situation in Darfur." The so-called hybrid force of AU and U.N. troops replaces a struggling AU mission. The plan is for it ultimately to comprise 20,000 soldiers and 6,000 police, but only a little over a third of those are so far in place. Ban said he spoke by telephone with Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir last week and planned to meet with him in person at an upcoming AU summit in Addis Ababa. Bashir has opposed non-African troops, delayed allocating land to the force, demanded the right to disable the mission's communications during "security operations" and refused night flights. Ban made it clear that the international community, too, must help the deployment by providing necessary helicopters and other heavy transport vehicles seen as vital for the mission to function effectively in a region the size of France.

Associated Press: Tensions Escalate on Darfur Border. Tensions in Sudan's western Darfur region escalated Monday as the Sudanese army accused neighboring Chad of new border violations and Darfur rebels claimed they took another town from government forces. A large number of Darfur refugees in camps on either side of the border risk being "the first victims of any further escalation" if the situation is not "immediately brought under control," the head of the United Nations mission to Darfur said in a statement Monday. The 26,000-strong U.N. and African mission to Darfur is already far behind schedule, and mission chief Rodolphe Adada warned the border tensions could have "a negative effect" on the peacekeepers' deployment. Sudan's military spokesman, Brig. Osman Mohamed al-Aghbash, told the daily Al-Akhbar Al-Youm that the Chadian air force had attacked the Wadi Radi area near the West Darfur state capital of El Geneina a day earlier, killing three people. "We consider this a hostile act inside Sudanese territory," al-Aghbash said. Meanwhile, Darfur rebels claimed Monday they had chased the Sudanese army from another village near El Geneina, downing a government aircraft.

Agence France Presse: Darfur food shortage 'urgent': rebel leader. A rebel leader in Sudan's troubled western Darfur province Monday said refugees in the region were suffering serious food shortages and promised aid agencies safe passage if they intervened. "The need for food has become urgent and there is a significant lack in that area," Khalil Ibrahim, leader of the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), told AFP by telephone. Ibrahim said displaced people in camps north of Geneina, western Darfur's main town, were suffering food shortages and he called on the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and other aid agencies to intervene, saying his fighters were ready to offer them protection. JEM rebels have recently stepped up attacks in the region which has also been bombed by warplanes from neighbouring Chad attacking Chadian rebel bases located south of Geneina. The group has refused to take part in UN-AU sponsored peace talks aimed at ending the violence in Darfur where 200,000 people have died and more than two million been displaced, according to international organisations.


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