Rebels hold 3 peacekeepers in Sudan`s Darfur

Last Updated: Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - 14:24

Khartoum: Three civilians with a joint
United Nations/African Union peacekeeping force are being held by rebels in Sudan`s Darfur and accused of being spies, a spokeswoman for the mission said.

A group of 55 peacekeepers including 50 Senegalese troops
were blocked by the rebel Justice and Equality Movement on
Sunday from passing through a village in northwest Darfur,
UNAMID spokeswoman Susan Manuel said yesterday.

While most of the group was allowed to move ahead
yesterday, three including a Yemeni policeman and two Sudanese
translators were kept behind, she said. Sudan`s state news
agency reported that the civilians held captive were from
Yemen, Ghana and Rwanda. It`s unclear what caused the
discrepancy.

"We are constantly in touch with the movement (to secure
their release) and have a lot of forces in the area," she said. "I can assure that our staff are not spies."

She said claims by the JEM that they had seized all 55
peacekeepers yesterday afternoon were not true.

"It really wasn`t quite that dramatic," she said.

Sudanese army spokesman Col. Sawarmy Khaled was quoted by
Sudan`s state SUNA agency on Monday saying that the JEM was
trying to give the impression that the situation in Darfur was
unstable. The JEM has not joined other groups in signing a
peace deal with the government.

UNAMID deploys around 20,000 people in Darfur, 8,000 of
whom are troops and another 5,000 are policemen. It is the
largest peacekeeping force in the world and its forces conduct
an average of more than 200 patrols a day, according to the
mission`s website.

The Darfur conflict began in 2003, but has largely
tapered off since 2009. The UN estimates up to 300,000 people
died and 2.7 million have been displaced due to the conflict.

The International Criminal Court in The Hague has issued
an international arrest warrant for Sudan`s President Omar
al-Bashir for his alleged role in crimes against humanity in
Darfur.

PTI



First Published: Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - 14:24

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