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Cablegate: Five Rwandan Unamid Peacekeepers Killed in Two Separate

VZCZCXRO8796
OO RUEHROV RUEHTRO
DE RUEHKH #1358 3401102
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 061102Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4830
INFO RUEHLGB/AMEMBASSY KIGALI PRIORITY 0023
RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RUEHGG/UN SECURITY COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS KHARTOUM 001358

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

NSC FOR MGAVIN, LETIM
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN
ADDIS ABABA ALSO FOR USAU

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM KPKO ECON EFIN SU

SUBJECT: Five Rwandan UNAMID Peacekeepers Killed in Two Separate
Attacks in North Darfur

1. (SBU) Summary: Five Rwandan peacekeepers with the United
Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) were killed over
the weekend in two separate attacks in North Darfur. Gunmen opened
fire on a UNAMID convoy traveling near Saraf Omra on December 4,
killing three peacekeepers. On December 5, gunmen fired on three
peacekeepers assisting with water distribution near the UNAMID team
site in Shagil Tobaya, killing two. GOS authorities announced
arrests in the Saraf Omra killings, but did not release any
additional details. UNAMID noted that in both cases, peacekeepers
returned fire but acted to minimize civilian casualties. End
summary.

2. (SBU) On Friday, December 4, unidentified gunmen opened fire on
Rwandan peacekeepers escorting a water tanker in Saraf Omra, North
Darfur, approximately 240 km northwest of El Fasher. Two
peacekeepers were killed immediately, three were seriously wounded,
and one of the wounded died prior to being evacuated to El Fasher.
The ambush took place 300 meters from a Government of Sudan (GOS)
police checkpoint, in the presence of numerous civilians. The
perpetrators escaped immediately following the attacks. UN sources
reported that some gunmen were dressed as civilians, and others wore
olive drab fatigues of a type common throughout Darfur but denoting
no specific identification. On December 6, GOS-controlled press
reported that the Governor of North Darfur, Wali Osman Kibir,
announced the arrest of the attackers, but neither UNAMID nor
independent sources were able to immediately confirm this
information, and the GOS did not offer any additional details.

3. (SBU) On Saturday, December 5, unidentified armed gunmen staged
another attack on Rwandan peacekeepers in North Darfur. Two
peacekeepers were killed at 4:40 p.m. in an attack close to the
UNAMID team site in Shagil Tobaya, a town approximately 50 km south
of El Fasher. According to UN sources, three peacekeepers were on
water distribution detail, and were assisting a crowd of civilians
at a water collection point located 500 meters from the entrance to
the team site. (Note: Shagil Tobaya has seen tribal clashes in the
last month, and a growing number of internally displaced persons
(IDPs) have sought security by squatting on the land surrounding the
team site. End note.) Armed gunmen standing within the crowd of
civilians raised their weapons and fired, killing two peacekeepers
immediately and seriously wounding a third. The attackers stole a
UNAMID vehicle, but quickly abandoned it after being pursued by a
response team from the UNAMID team site. The attackers escaped, and
GOS authorities had not announced any arrests as of the afternoon of
December 6.

4. (SBU) Acting UNAMID Chief of Staff Kemal Saiki noted that in both
cases, peacekeepers returned fire, but acted with restraint due to
the civilians present in both locations. In both cases, the Rwandan
peacekeeping companies involved operate in areas where Arab militias
have repeatedly clashed with local tribes, in territory over which
the GOS has very limited control. In addition to the twenty-two
peacekeepers killed since the start of UNAMID's operations in 2008,
two UNAMID civilian staff remain held after being kidnapped in West
Darfur in September.

5. (SBU) Comment: The presence of UNAMID peacekeepers remains a
politically explosive issue in many localities throughout Darfur.
By upsetting the delicate balance between GOS security forces, local
militia and civilians, peacekeepers become another unconcealed
target in a region with no shortage of armed actors and political
grievances. It is unlikely that any information will emerge to
connect the two attacks, but the number of coincidences, as one UN
official put it, is "unusual." Detractors may be eager to point the
finger at Khartoum, but at this time, the most that can be noted is
that the GOS has done little to hold to account those who have
killed or kidnapped UNAMID peacekeepers and civilian staff. For a
government with judges, prosecutors and security forces in all three
states of Darfur, the GOS has not taken sufficient measures to
discourage the environment of impunity that exists. End comment.

WHITEHEAD

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