Five Rwandan peacekeepers have been shot dead and one wounded in Sudan’s Darfur region, in separate incidents on Friday and Saturday, the United Nations/African Union force there says.
Reuters noted that the attack was a reminder of the vulnerability of the under-equipped joint UN/African Union UNAMID mission in Darfur and brought the number of its personnel killed by hostile action since January last year to 22.
Referring to the attacks that occurred within 24 hours of each other, Rwandan President Paul Kagame called on Khartoum for an explanation.
“I’m not suggesting that Sudan is actually targeting UNAMID,” he told a local radio station. “We’ll wait and see but I’m also suggesting the possibilities that the government may have responsibility, or have some explaining to do to us about how this has happened twice in a short period of time close to their positions”.
The first attack occurred when gunmen in traditional wear opened fire on a group of 20 Rwandan soldiers escorting a tanker to a water point on the outskirts of the north Darfur settlement of Saraf Omra, killing two and wounding one Rwandan peacekeeper, who later died, the UNAMID force says.
The second attack, on Saturday, occurred in the settlement of Shangil Tobay, about 65 km south of the capital north Darfur, El Fasher. Two more Rwandan peacekeepers were killed.
“It was the worst kind of ambush, an ambush in a crowd,” UNAMID communications Chief Kemal Saiki told Reuters.
UNAMID communications Chief Kemal Saiki said it was too early to say
whether the attacks were linked. The hybrid force, which is supposed to keep the peace in a territory about the size of Spain, has faced threats and harassment from Sudanese government troops, the United Nations reported last month, and has also been targeted by bandits active in the remote western region. Khartoum dismissed the UN report.
Saiki says UNAMID is investigating the motives of the attackers, but it suspects they were trying to steal a vehicle.
Law and order in Darfur has collapsed in the more-than-six years since mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms against Sudan’s government, accusing it of neglecting the region. Sudan’s government mobilised mostly Arab militias to crush the uprising. Violence has diminished in recent years, replaced in many areas by a free-for-all involving rival tribes, rebel splinter groups and bandits.
Estimates of the death toll range from 300 000 according to the United Nations, to 10 000 according to Khartoum.