- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 17, 2009

KHARTOUM, SUDAN (AP) - A Darfur peacekeeper was shot and killed when gunmen attacked his vehicle Tuesday in southern Darfur, a mission spokeswoman said.

Josephine Guerraro says eight gunmen opened fire at members of the U.N.-African Union force as they were returning from a patrol to their base outside the southern town of Nyala.

The peacekeeper was wounded and later died as he was being evacuated to the mission’s main hospital in North Darfur. “It was an ambush,” she said. “There were armed men waiting for them and as they drove by, (the men) started shooting at them.”

The soldiers, driving in an open pickup truck returned fire, but the gunmen escaped, she said. The gunmen were not identified.

Tuesday’s shooting was the second targeting peacekeepers since the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant on March 4 against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on charges of war crimes in Darfur.

Four peacekeepers were wounded in a March 9 shooting in the capital of Western Darfur, al-Geneina. One was in serious condition.

The chief of the joint U.N.-AU Mission, Rodolphe Adada, strongly condemned the attack Tuesday.

“These ongoing attacks against the UNAMID peacekeeping mission will not dissuade us from pursuing our mandate in Darfur,” he said in a statement.

Many feared the warrant by the Netherlands-based international court could unleash violence in Darfur against the peacekeepers and civilians.

Three foreign aid workers and one local colleague were kidnapped in northern Darfur on March 12, and released four days later. Government officials said the kidnappers took the hostages in revenge for the ICC decision.

The government condemned the kidnapping, but some officials said the ICC decision encourages lawlessness in Darfur.

The court accuses al-Bashir of orchestrating atrocities against civilians in Darfur, where his Arab-led government has been battling ethnic African rebels since 2003. Up to 300,000 people have been killed and 2.7 million have been driven from their homes.

The U.N.-AU peacekeeping mission, which has about 15,000 soldiers, deployed more than a year ago in Darfur, but the forces remains under-equipped and it has been attacked by the warring factions. At least a dozen peacekeepers were killed last year.

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