Sudanese team joins UNAMID efforts to find kidnapped SA peacekeepers

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The Sudanese government has dispatched a special team of investigators to help the hybrid United Nations/African Union mission in Darfur (UNAMID) in the search for four missing South African police advisers.

The Sudan Tribune reports the four, two men and two women, went missing on Sunday while on their way to their quarters in Nyala, capital of South Darfur. The Sudanese publication says government officials informed UN Joint Special Representative Professor Ibrahim Gambari “they had dispatched a special to Nyala to assist our colleagues” search for the missing peacekeepers.

UNAMID spokesman Noureddine Mezni says Gambari is close contacts with the Sudanese government who sought to assure him that every effort is being done to find the South Africans. The Sudan Tribune observes the restive region of Darfur has “witnessed several attacks and abductions of the members of the joint operation since 2008.”

In August last year, a group of armed men had kidnapped two UNAMID staff members (one woman and one man) in Zalingei, 100km southeast of El-Geneina the capital of West Darfur state. They were released in mid-December thanks to government efforts to release them.

Mezni said the Mission still “talks about missing” and expressed wishes to find them soon unharmed.

The Chinese state Xinhua news agency yesterday reported UNAMID source had told it the for were kidnapped by about 10 unidentified gunmen, a fact not mentioned by the Sudan Tribune. The source quoted witnesses as saying that the four policemen were forced to step off their vehicle at gunpoint. No armed group in Darfur has made contacts with the UNAMID to claim responsibility for the kidnapping, the source noted.

The UN News Service says the blue helmets were last seen about 4pm local time as they departed their team site close to Nyala. They had been headed on a seven-kilometre journey towards their private accommodation but never reached their destination. UNAMID issued a statement Monday saying it had mobilised its resources in the region to search for the missing staff. The mission said it is also working closely with the Sudanese government and local authorities in a bid to locate the peacekeepers. “There have been no sightings of our staff and we are deeply concerned for their will-being,” said Gambari.

South Africa has yet to comment on the kidnapping. SA has some 165 police and about 800 soldiers in the country. A statement from the police is expeted later today.



Pic: An undated file photograph of a South African police inspector and a SANDF offier in Darfur