Sudan arrests two over Darfur peacekeeper shooting
Thursday, February 18, 2010; 2:54 AM
KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudanese authorities arrested two men in connection with the shooting of seven Pakistani peacekeepers in Darfur, officials said on Thursday.
Gunmen armed with AK-47 rifles opened fire on a police patrol from the joint U.N./African Union UNAMID peacekeeping force near the South Darfur capital Nyala on Tuesday afternoon, the latest in a series of attacks on the mission.
UNAMID initially said two of the police were in a critical condition but on Thursday said that had risen to four.
"The Sudanese authorities have arrested two people in connection with the attack," UNAMID spokesman Noureddine Mezni told Reuters. "This will serve as a lesson to anyone who even thinks of attacking us in the future."
A total of 22 UNAMID police and soldiers have been killed in carjackings, attacks and ambushes as law and order has collapsed in the remote western region, where mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms against the government in 2003.
The gunmen escaped in two UNAMID vehicles, one of which was recovered by the Sudanese authorities who made Wednesday's arrests, Mezni said. U.N. officials said it was unclear whether they had set out to shoot peacekeepers or to steal vehicles.
"Any attack on peacekeepers is tantamount to a war crime," said UNAMID mission head Ibrahim Gambari in a statement late on Wednesday after he visited the police in hospital.
The attackers waited for the patrol close to El-Sherif refugee camp, 17km (10 miles) south of Nyala, and the peacekeepers were wounded as they returned fire, said UNAMID.
Seven years of fighting in Darfur has forced an estimated 2.7 million to flee their homes and killed up to 300,000, according to the United Nations. Khartoum, which accuses Western media of exaggerating the conflict, puts the toll at 10,000.
UNAMID says it is still short of vital equipment, including military helicopters, needed in its efforts to keep the peace in a region the size of Spain.
More than two years after UNAMID arrived, the mostly African force only has about 80 percent of its full deployment of 26,000 police and soldiers on the ground.
(Reporting by Andrew Heavens; Editing by Louise Ireland)