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Peacekeeper Abducted, Robbed, Released In Darfur

UN Peacekeeper In Darfur Released After Abduction, Robbery By Arab Militiamen

18 June 2008 - A staff member serving with the United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) was today abducted by armed Arab militiamen, assaulted and stripped of his belongings before being eventually released.

The mission said in a press statement that the man was attacked just before noon and three of his colleagues were also held at gunpoint, close to both the UNAMID military base and the airport in El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur state.

The staff member is now in a stable condition after being repeatedly beaten with rifles during the attack, which only ended when a member of the Sudan National Security intervened and the militiamen released the peacekeeper.

The militia had been moving in a convoy of about 1,000 men on camels, horses and in four-wheel-drive vehicles, on its way to the local headquarters of the Sudanese armed forces.

"UNAMID avoided opening fire in response to avoid further aggravating the situation and in consideration of the lives of the civilian population in that area," according to the mission's statement.

"UNAMID condemns, in the strongest terms, the attack on its peacekeepers. The mission is deployed to help the people of Darfur achieve peace and stability. In their attempt to resolve the conflict in Darfur, peacekeepers should not, in any way, be made party to the conflict."

The mission and UN security officials said they are continuing to monitor the situation across Darfur, where UNAMID has been in place since the start of the year to try to end a brutal conflict that has pitted rebels against Government forces and allied Arab militiamen, known as the Janjaweed, since 2003.

During those five years an estimated 300,000 people have died, either through direct combat or because of disease, malnutrition or reduced life expectancy. Another 2.7 million people are now displaced, with many living across the border in eastern Chad.

UNAMID currently has around 10,000 troops and police officers on the ground in Darfur, far short of the expected total of about 26,000 when the mission reaches full deployment. It is also lacking key capacities in air transport, particularly helicopters.

The new head of the Department of Field Support, Under-Secretary-General Susanna Malcorra, has begun her visit to Darfur, an impoverished region on Sudan's western flank.

Meanwhile, UN officials in Chad say the security situation in the northeast of that country is calm again after days of gun battles between Government forces and armed opposition groups.

The Secretary-General's Special Representative Victor Da Silva Angelo, who has just completed a field visit to the affected area, expressed his gratitude to the Irish and Dutch contingent of the European Union force (EUFOR) for the protection they provided to UN and aid workers in recent days.

Mr. Angelo, who is also head of the UN mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT), said in a statement that the EUFOR contingents also responded with professionalism in Abeché and throughout the country.

"The SRSG considers the EUFOR mandate to be critical for enhancing security in eastern Chad and welcomes the reinforcement of the cooperation between EUFOR, MINURCAT and the Government of Chad as an essential element for a sustainable solution to the existing challenges," he said.

UN aid workers have been instructed to redeploy so they can provide assistance to both internally displaced persons (IDPs) and Darfurian refugees living in camps around the town of Goz Beida.

ENDS

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