A Bangladeshi peacekeeper serving with the joint African Union-United Nations Mission (UNAMID) in Sudan's volatile Darfur region has been killed in an attack by a group of unidentified gunmen, the mission announced late on Sunday.
According to the mission, the peacekeeper, who was a member of Bangladesh's Formed Police Unit, was killed after the attackers opened fire on staff at a UNAMID community policing center inside the Otash internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur. The gunmen reportedly fled the area after the police unit returned fire.
"The attack on our peacekeepers is cowardly, deplorable and our thoughts go to the families and friends of the fallen and the injured," Aichatou Mindaoudou, UNAMID's Acting Joint Special Representative (JSR), was quoted as saying in the press release that announced the soldier's death.
Mindaoudou stressed that the cowardly act constituted a war crime under international law, and called on the Sudanese government to make serious efforts to apprehend the culprits and bring them to justice.
International aid workers and UNAMID personnel in Darfur have been the target of frequent attacks and kidnappings in recent years. The UNAMID had taken over peacekeeping duties in Darfur from an AU peacekeeping force in December 2007.
The joint AU-U.N. mission is tasked with protecting civilians, promoting an inclusive peace process and helping ensure the safe delivery of humanitarian assistance across Darfur, an arid region on Sudan's western flank. Since its deployment, the UNAMID has been the target of several deadly attacks and has lost 38 peacekeepers as a result of hostile actions.
According to the U.N., about 300,000 people have been killed and some 2.7 million displaced in the Darfur region after ethnic Africans took up arms against the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum in 2003 to fight discrimination.
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on Tuesday extended the mandate of the joint U.N.-AU peacekeeping force in Darfur for one more year. It also urged all parties involved in the conflict to end violence and work towards a comprehensive peace settlement.
The UNSC also decided that uniformed personnel serving with the mission will be soon reconfigured "to focus on the areas of Darfur with the highest security threats." Accordingly, it will now be reconfigured in 12 to 18 months to include up to 16,200 military personnel, 2,310 police personnel and 17 formed police units of up to 140 personnel each.
The UNSC move was in line with a recommendation made by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who noted in his recent report that "the reconfigured force, although smaller in number, would be better equipped and more rapidly deployable than at present to address emerging threats to civilians."
by RTT Staff Writer
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