Gunmen injure seven peacekeepers in Sudan's Darfur
KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Unidentified gunmen opened fire on Pakistani peacekeepers in Sudan's Darfur region on Tuesday, injuring seven, two of them seriously, in the latest in a string of attacks on the force, officials said.
The ambush came just hours after the joint U.N./African Union UNAMID mission took delivery of its first five military helicopters, ending a wait of more than two years for air support in Sudan's rebellious west.
The attackers shot at an armed UNAMID police patrol near Nyala, capital of South Darfur, escaping with two police vehicles, UNAMID spokesman Noureddine Mezni told Reuters.
"It was an ambush this afternoon. Two of the seven were critically wounded ... This is very serious. We are a peacekeeping mission but we do not have a comprehensive peace to keep," he said.
A total of 22 UNAMID soldiers and police have died in ambushes, carjackings and other violent incidents since they took over from a beleaguered African Union force at the beginning of 2008.
Mezni said one of the critically injured men was evacuated to Khartoum, while the other was too seriously injured to move from hospital in Nyala, where the five others were being treated.
A U.N. official said the injured men came from Pakistan.
Law and order has collapsed in Darfur since the conflict flared in 2003 when mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms against Sudan's government, accusing it of leaving the region underdeveloped and marginalized.
Khartoum mobilized mostly Arab militias to crush the revolt, unleashing a wave of violence that Washington and some activists call genocide.
The violence has driven an estimated 2.7 million people from their homes. Estimates of the death count range from 10,000 according to Khartoum to around 300,000 according to the United Nations.
(Reporting by Andrew Heavens; Editing by Michael Roddy)