Three blue helmets serving with the joint United Nations-African Union force (UNAMID) in Sudan’s Darfur region were killed last night in an ambush at a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs), the mission confirmed today.
The soldiers were part of a regular night patrol that was ambushed by a group of unidentified armed men about 8:15 p.m. in Zam Zam, a large IDP camp just beyond the outskirts of El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state.
The names and nationalities of the slain peacekeepers have not yet been released, but UNAMID said two were soldiers and one was a police adviser. Six other peacekeepers were injured in the ambush, three of them seriously, while one of the assailants was also killed.
Ibrahim Gambari, the head of UNAMID, strongly condemned last night’s attack, noting that the peacekeepers had been trying to ensure security at Zam Zam. He called on Sudanese authorities to launch an immediate investigation to identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice.
“An attack on international peacekeepers is a war crime and we will ensure that justice will be served,” he said. “This deplorable incident will not deter UNAMID’s strong commitment to its mission to protect the people of Darfur.”
In a separate statement issued by his spokesperson, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon strongly condemned the killings and offered his sympathies to the families of those killed.
Security Council members also voiced outrage, with Ambassador U. Joy Ogwu of Nigeria, which holds the rotating Council presidency this month, reading out a press statement in which the 15-member panel “stressed that there must be an end to impunity for those that attack peacekeepers.”
Yesterday’s attack occurred only two months after another UNAMID peacekeeper was slain, that time following an ambush in South Darfur. Thirty-three personnel from the mission have died as a result of hostile actions since it took over from an earlier AU peace force at the start of 2008, and many humanitarian workers have also been targeted in attacks by bandits or armed groups.
Darfur has been wracked with conflict since 2003, pitting Government forces and allied militiamen against rebel groups. Millions of civilians have been either internally displaced or forced to seek refuge in neighbouring countries.