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UN Helicopter Lands Safely After Coming Under Fire

In Darfur, UN Helicopter Lands Safely After Coming Under Fire

A United Nations helicopter in Darfur was able to land safely yesterday after being shot at in the third incident of its kind in the war-wracked region of western Sudan.

The helicopter was on its way to Shangil Tobaya, where the hybrid UN-African Union peacekeeping mission UNAMID has a base camp, from the North Darfur town of Tawila when shots were fired about 37 kilometres before it could reach the destination.

UNAMID reported that the helicopter, which was carrying 12 passengers and four crew members, was able to land safely following the shooting. However, one of its fuel tanks was found to be leaking.

The helicopter later left for El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state and the headquarters for UNAMID, after repairs were made. The passengers were left behind for security reasons.

Meanwhile, criminals suspected to be Janjaweed militiamen dressed in army uniform fired a volley of shots at two UNAMID engineering staff as they drove near El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur.

The mission said the UNAMID staff escaped without injury after the attack, which occurred near a Sudanese Government military detachment.

The latest incidents have taken place amid mounting concern over the continuing violence in Darfur, where rebels have been fighting Government forces and allied Janjaweed members since 2003.

In the past five years around 300,000 people are estimated to have been killed, either through direct combat or a result of disease, malnutrition or reduced life expectancy, while 2.7 million others have had to flee their homes.

The UN and the AU have been spearheading international efforts to end the conflict, a task hampered by the splintering of the rebels over the past year or so from three or four major groups into as many as 30 separate factions.

As part of those efforts, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and AU Chairperson Jean Ping have announced that Tunisia’s Azouz Ennifar has been appointed Deputy Joint AU-UN Chief Mediator for Darfur.

Mr. Ennifar, who has an extensive professional record in peacekeeping, mediation and diplomacy, will assist the Joint AU-UN Chief Mediator, Djibril Yipènè Bassolé of Burkina Faso.

The Tunisian served as the Secretary-General’s Acting Special Representative and as the head of the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea UNMEE from July 2005 to July this year.

ENDS

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