Unidentified Darfur gunmen killed an African Union officer from
Ghana and hijacked his car within meters of the peacekeeping
mission's headquarters, the AU said Sunday.
The officer was traveling alone in his vehicle when he was
ambushed late on Saturday, said AU spokesman Noureddine Mezni.
The ambush took place hours after US Deputy Secretary of State
John Negroponte visited the AU headquarters in El Fasher as part of
a trip to Sudan to push the government to allow UN troops in Darfur
to reinforce the overwhelmed AU mission.
It was the third slaying of AU peacekeepers this month.
"If this growing hostility continues, truly the (AU) mission
will be compromised and we will have to take the necessary
measures," Mezni told said on the telephone.
Mezni and other AU officials said they did not know the identity
of the gunmen, but would investigate the killing, which took place
on the outskirts the government-controlled town of El Fasher in
North Darfur, where the 7,000-strong AU mission has its
headquarters since deploying to Darfur in 2004.
"More than 90 vehicles have been hijacked since the beginning of
the mission," Mezni said.
He accused certain Darfur fighting factions of trying to "drag
the AU into the conflict".
"This cannot happen," he said. "We came here to protect
civilians. If this is becoming impossible, we will take appropriate
measures," he said.
The latest attack brought to 18 the number of peacekeepers
killed in Darfur, and an AU officer is also held hostage since
being kidnapped in December.
Last week, three soldiers from Rwanda's contingent to the AU
mission were killed and an AU car hijacked during a patrol in North
Darfur, which took place in a zone controlled by the Sudan
Liberation Movement rebels, the AU said.
Two other injured Rwandans were medically evacuated in critical
Earlier this month, five Senegalese peacekeepers were slain in
an ambush earlier, which occurred a day after a general acting as
the AU's deputy force commander narrowly escaped being gunned down
in his helicopter as he was heading to a meeting with rebels.
There are also almost daily reports of vehicles being hijacked,
aid workers assaulted and refugees harassed throughout Darfur. Vast
sectors of the region, nearly the size of Texas, are off limits to
the peacekeepers. But the Sudanese government opposes a plan by the
United Nations to replace them with a 22,000-strong UN force.
However, Sudan and the UN are now edging toward a compromise
deal that would allow some 3,000 UN troops to deploy in Darfur as
reinforcement to the AU.
(China Daily via agencies April 16, 2007)