The United Nations has voiced outrage after two peacekeepers serving with the joint African Union-UN force in Sudan's war-scarred Darfur region were killed and three others seriously wounded in an ambush earlier today.
The two Egyptian soldiers died after their convoy, carrying out a routine patrol, was attacked by about 20 unidentified armed gunmen who opened fire without warning in a remote area of South Darfur state, according to the mission (known as UNAMID).
The wounded soldiers have been airlifted to a UNAMID hospital in the state capital of Nyala and are reported to be in a stable condition.
The head of UNAMID and the AU-UN Joint Special Representative, Ibrahim Gambari, expressed outrage at what he described as a “cowardly attack” against the peacekeepers, who he noted are in Darfur – which has been beset by conflict and large-scale humanitarian suffering since 2003 – only to help restore peace and stability to the region.
“UNAMID remains undaunted and unwavering in its commitment to carrying out its mandate in the service of peace,” Mr. Gambari stressed.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in a statement issued by his spokesperson, called on the Sudanese Government to launch an immediate investigation into the incident and to identify, apprehend and bring the perpetrators to justice.
Kemal Saïki, a spokesperson for UNAMID, told UN Radio that there is “no indication as to the identities nor the motives of the attackers.” He called on Sudanese authorities to identify, capture and bring to justice the attackers and any sponsors as soon as possible.
“There is absolutely no reason why our peacekeepers should have been attacked? This is a criminal act of violence that we are forcefully denouncing.”
Security Council members also condemned the attack “in the strongest terms” according to a statement read out on behalf of the 15-member panel by Ambassador Nawaf Salam of Lebanon, which holding the rotating presidency this month.
Mr. Salam said the Council extended its condolences to the families of the slain peacekeepers and to the Egyptian Government, and reiterated its full support for the work of the mission.
Today's attack took place about 11:30 a.m. near the village of Katila, which is about 85 kilometres south of the town of Edd al Fursan. The UNAMID convoy that was ambushed was comprised of three vehicles and 20 peacekeepers.
Last month four South African police advisers serving with UNAMID were abducted near Nyala by unknown gunmen but were later released unharmed.
Today's deaths take the number of UNAMID personnel killed as a result of hostile actions to 24 since the mission was established at the start of 2008 as a successor to an earlier AU force. An estimated 300,000 people have been killed and 2.7 million other Darfurians displaced since fighting erupted seven years ago.