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Secretary-General deplores murder of 5 African Union peacekeepers in Darfur

Secretary-General deplores murder of 5 African Union peacekeepers in Darfur

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today led United Nations condemnation of the murder of five African Union (AU) peacekeepers in Darfur, saying it illustrates the need to send a hybrid UN-AU force to the war-torn Sudanese region and announcing plans to dispatch a team of experts to Addis Ababa as part of preparations for the planned operation.

“I would like to strongly deplore such killings,” Mr. Ban told reporters at UN Headquarters in New York today, one day after the peacekeepers with the AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS) were shot dead by unidentified men in an unprovoked attack in Um Baru, about 220 kilometres from the North Darfur provincial capital of El Fasher.

On Saturday armed men also fired at an AMIS helicopter as it was carrying staff from Zalingei in West Darfur to El Fasher.

In a statement, the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) voiced deep concern at the attacks and called on all parties to the conflict in Darfur to respect the neutrality and impartiality of AMIS.

“Any attack against the African Union personnel deployed in Darfur is a serious violation of international law and relevant resolutions of the United Nations Security Council,” the mission said, calling on authorities to identify the culprits and hold them to account as soon as possible.

AMIS peacekeepers and humanitarian workers with UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have become increasingly targeted in Darfur, where rebel groups have been fighting Government forces and allied Janjaweed militias since 2003.

More than 200,000 people are estimated to have been killed, and at least 2 million others forced from their homes because of the fighting, and the conflict is threatening to spill into neighbouring Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR), which have been beset by their own civil conflicts.

Last week at a mini-summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Mr. Ban, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, AU Chairman Alpha Oumar Konaré and League of Arab States Secretary-General Amr Moussa reached an agreement to re-double their efforts to resolve the Darfur conflict and to press ahead quickly with the plans for a hybrid peacekeeping force.

As part of the agreement a technical consultative briefing is to be held as soon as possible to finalize preparations for the force, which could be almost 20,000-strong.

Mr. Ban said today that he will send technical experts from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for that briefing on the force, also known as the “heavy support package,” hopefully by early next week.

On Thursday the Secretary-General plans to make an informal briefing to the Council in the latest developments concerning Darfur and will also convene a high-level consultation with Mr. Konaré when he visits New York later this month.

But Mr. Ban stressed the need for continuing progress on other fronts, especially promoting political dialogue and enhancing humanitarian access to the remote and impoverished region.

Last week the UN and Sudan signed a joint communiqué in which the Government pledged to support, protect and facilitate all humanitarian operations in Darfur, where an estimated 4 million people now depend on outside aid.

The UN Human Rights Council also agreed to establish a group of independent rights experts to work with Sudan and the AU to monitor the situation on the ground.