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01.12.2009 Sudan

Staff abductions and regional stability in Darfur concern senior UN official

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30 November - A senior United Nations peacekeeping official today voiced “extreme” concern over the fate of two abducted staff members of the joint UN-African Union mission in Darfur (UNAMID), warning that the security situation on the war-ravaged western flank of Sudan continues to be unstable.

“Carjackings and attacks on humanitarian workers have continued,” Assistant-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet told the Security Council, reminding the 15-member body that the international staff members, who were kidnapped over three months ago, are still in captivity.

Mr. Mulet noted that the opening of a new round of UN-backed talks on 17 November in the Qatari capital of Doha, aimed at bringing peace to Darfur, coincided with an escalation of armed clashes involving rebel militia in the region.

In southern Darfur, armed Sudanese Liberation Army rebels from the Minni Minnawi faction (SLA/MM) attacked two villages, killing 11 people, and a few days later on 19 November 29 Sudanese soldiers were ambushed and killed, with both SLA/Abdul Shafie and SLA/Abdul Wahid fighters claiming responsibility.

“These attacks are unacceptable and illustrate the extent to which the fragmentation of the Darfurian rebel movements continues to be a reality ¬– with obvious implications for the mediation and peace process,” Mr. Mulet said in the briefing on UNAMID.

The Assistant-Secretary-General told the Council that a number of groups in Darfur, including the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and SLA/AW continue to express concern over the holding of national elections, slated for April 2010, before a peace agreement is reached.

In this connection, Mr. Mulet said that the “start of elections registration on 1 November led to heightened tensions in some areas of Darfur,” which he characterized as an unacceptable threat to the electoral process in Sudan.

Fighting has raged across Darfur since 2003, pitting the rebel movements against Government forces and allied Janjaweed militiamen. An estimated 300,000 people have been killed in the region over the past six years and another 2.7 million people forced to leave their homes.

UNAMID has been deployed there since January 2008 to try to quell the fighting and protect civilians and currently has 4,449 police and about 69 per cent of its Security Council authorized troop strength of 19,555.

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