Sudan summoned the acting head of international peacekeepers in Darfur to express concern over a rebel ambush last week in which vehicles and equipment belonging to his force were seized.
Ramping up diplomatic tensions with the United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission, the foreign ministry also requested it rotate Nigerian soldiers out of the area near the Jabel Marra rebel stronghold, state news agency SUNA said.
Sudan’s army has publicly questioned how a 60-man patrol could hand over its vehicles and weapons to rebel ambushers without firing a shot.
The peacekeeping mission, known as UNAMID, has said its men were ambushed on their way to investigate reports of heavy fighting in central Darfur, and detained overnight before being released on Saturday.
UNAMID confirmed yesterday’s meeting but declined to comment on the request to rotate out the Nigerian troops or the implication it had handed over its weapons voluntarily to the rebels.
“The whole issue of what happened in Jabel Marra is being discussed,” UNAMID spokesperson Kemal Saiki said. “It was agreed there would be further consultations with (the) authorities on the issue.”
Sudan accused UNAMID earlier this year of supplying rebels with food and fuel, which the mission and the rebels denied.
SUNA quoted a senior official as saying the foreign ministry expressed its concern at Wednesday’s meeting about the behaviour of UNAMID’s forces and its movements “without heeding the advice of the Sudanese army”.
It asked UNAMID to clarify what had happened during the ambush and why it had used a road which the army had told it was unsafe. The ministry also requested an investigation by a joint Sudanese-UNAMID committee.
Hundreds of civilians are feared to have died in a surge of fighting between Sudan’s army and rebels in the mountainous Jabel Marra area, according to UN and rebel sources. Sudan’s army denies involvement in fighting in the area, and the rebel Sudan Liberation Movement, which controls Jabel Marra, denied any role in the ambush.
Law and order has collapsed in Darfur since conflict flared in 2003 when mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms against the Sudanese government, accusing it of neglecting the region.
Pic: Nigerian troops