Four UN Peacekeepers Abducted In Sudan's Darfur Region

4/14/2010 3:40 PM ET The joint UN-African Union peacekeeping mission in Sudan's troubled Darfur region confirmed Wednesday that the four South African peacekeepers who went missing earlier the week have been kidnapped.

A spokesman for the joint UNAMID peacekeeping mission told reporters on Wednesday that it is not yet clear who carried out the kidnapping, but added that the mission is making all possible efforts to secure their release as early as possible.

The spokesman said that the four missing peacekeepers, who are South African police advisers, were seized along with their vehicle by unidentified gunmen near Nyala, the capital of South Darfur province.

Earlier in the week, the UNAMID mission had reported that four peacekeepers with the mission have not been seen or heard from since Sunday after they left their team site just outside Nyala in south Darfur.

Darfur has witnessed a wave of kidnappings of foreign aid workers ever since ethnic Africans in the region took up arms against the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum in 2003 to fight discrimination. UN estimates that about 300,000 people have been killed and some 2.5 million displaced in the unrest.

The UNAMID had taken over peacekeeping duties in the troubled Darfur region in January 2008 from the AU peacekeeping force. Since its deployment, the UNAMID has been the target of several deadly attacks.

The latest development comes days after Sudan's election commission extended the voting in the country's landmark elections by two more days because of technical problems.

The voting in the three-day elections was originally scheduled to run from Sunday through Tuesday, but commission spokesman Salah Habib said Monday that the polling would be now end only on Thursday.

The spokesman said that the move was to ensure that technical problems did not prevent anyone from voting in the country's landmark elections, which incidentally is Sudan's first multi-party vote since 1986.

Sudan is currently holding its first presidential, parliamentary and local elections in 24 years. The elections come after a Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) reached in 2005 ending 22 years of civil war between the Arab north and Christian and animist South.

The civil war in Sudan between the north and south ended with the 2005 peace agreement, which paved the way for an autonomous secular government in the south. In line with the 2005 agreement, a referendum will be held in southern Sudan in 2011 for its people to decide whether or not to break away from the north and form an independent state.

Several key opposition parties are boycotting the elections, alleging that fair contests are not possible in the country due to biased legislation, as well as overwhelming government control of the media and election monitoring bodies. Despite their boycott, more than 14,000 candidates from 73 different parties are competing in the elections.

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Four UN Peacekeepers Abducted In Sudan's Darfur Region
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Apr 15, 2010 - 6:48:43 AM