Darfur rebels release last three UNAMID staff

Last Updated: Wednesday, February 22, 2012 - 09:39

Khartoum: Rebels in Sudan`s Darfur region
have released two Sudanese interpreters and a Yemeni police adviser detained on Sunday during a peacekeeping patrol, the
UN-African Union mission to the region said late Tuesday.

They had been taken away by rebels of the Justice and
Equality Movement (JEM) who blocked the 55-member patrol, said
Susan Manuel, a spokeswoman for the UNAMID mission.

"We were blocked from moving in a village that was
surrounded by hills" where the rebels were stationed, Manuel
said.

But except for the two interpreters and the Yemeni, "no
one was taken in custody," Manuel said.

A JEM spokesman, Gibril Adam Bilal, insisted all of the
three were Sudanese but he said they were freed after a UNAMID
commander confirmed they worked for the mission.

They were initially suspected of being government security
agents, he said.

Rebels stopped the patrol of mostly Senegalese troops for
"investigation" because they had entered a JEM-controlled area
without permission, Bilal said.

They were later released after the rebels concluded the
peacekeepers entered without knowing the area was under JEM
control.

UNAMID said the incident, involving more than 100 armed
rebels, occurred about 60 kilometres from the UNAMID patrol`s
base in Um Baru, northwestern Darfur.

In a statement, the UNAMID chief Ibrahim Gambari said his troops had refused to leave until the interpreters and the Yemeni could rejoin the patrol.

"This afternoon everyone has returned, without injury and
without any conditionality," Gambari said, condemning the
incident as a violation of international humanitarian law and
a possible war crime.

"The standoff ended after the arrival of substantial
peacekeeping reinforcements, as well as after repeated
contacts with JEM leadership by UNAMID representatives," the
UN statement said.

The JEM and other rebel groups drawn from Darfur`s
non-Arab tribes rose up against the Arab-dominated Khartoum
government in 2003. In response, the government unleashed
state-backed Janjaweed militia in a conflict that shocked the
world and led to allegations of genocide.

Since then, much of the violence in the region has
degenerated into banditry.

The United Nations estimates that at least 300,000 people
have died as a result of the Darfur conflict, while almost two
million people remain displaced.

The Sudanese government puts the death toll at 10,000.

PTI



First Published: Wednesday, February 22, 2012 - 09:39

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