Darfur rebels say 49 AU-UN peacekeepers held

Rebels in Sudan`s Darfur region said on Monday they have detained 49 international peacekeepers.

Khartoum: Rebels in Sudan`s Darfur region
said on Monday they have detained 49 international peacekeepers
and three suspected Sudanese intelligence agents for
"investigation" after they entered a rebel-held area.

The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) captured the
mostly Senegalese members of the United Nations-African Union
peacekeeping mission UNAMID yesterday, said rebels` spokesman
Gibril Adam Bilal.

"They came to an area controlled by JEM without permission
and without informing JEM," Bilal said, without specifying the
location in the vast Darfur region of western Sudan.

He said the rebels were holding them to probe why they
entered rebel territory, "and to investigate the three
Sudanese because we think they are members of Sudan`s
intelligence and security service".

A UNAMID spokeswoman said "there is a situation ongoing"
but could not immediately give details.

The peacekeepers and their equipment were safe, said
Bilal. Forty-six of them were from Senegal, including two
officers, while there was one each from Yemen, Ghana and

Senegalese troops operate primarily in Darfur`s northwest
near the Chad border.

JEM, a key rebel group from Darfur, announced in January
that it had chosen Gibril Ibrahim, a one-time university
professor, to head the movement after his brother Khalil, its
former leader, was killed.

The new chief denied JEM had fractured and said the group
would follow the course set by his brother to seek
"democratic" change.

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.

Early this month JEM released five Turks who, the group
said, had been hired to dig wells for the Sudanese military.
They were held for several months.

The United Nations estimates that at least 300,000 people
have died as a result of the Darfur conflict, with about 300
killed in clashes last year. Almost two million people remain

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


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