Nigerian troops off to Darfur
Abuja - Nigeria will begin sending troops to join a newly expanded African truce-monitoring force in the war torn Sudanese region of Darfur on Thursday, the country's top military spokesperson said.
"US planes will fly 41 Nigerian soldiers to Sudan tomorrow morning to beef up troops already on the ground," Colonel Ganiyu Adewale said on Wednesday.
"Then, later two more companies will join them. There's no date for that now," he added.
The first 41 soldiers will join others already in Darfur to form an infantry company. Eventually the three Nigerian companies plus support staff will form a 770-strong battalion, part of a planned 3 250-strong AU force.
The African force has been set up to monitor a shaky truce signed in April this year between the Khartoum government and the Darfur region's two rebel movements. Both sides accuse the other of repeated ceasefire violations.
Delegates from both warring parties are currently in the Nigerian capital Abuja for an AU-sponsored peace conference, but the deployment of the force has been dogged by delays and controversy.
After initially resisting the idea of a neutral force, Khartoum has demanded that incoming soldiers undergo HIV/AIDS screening and has placed bureaucratic barriers in the way of using US transport planes.
The cost of the deployment will be born by the international community, led by the European Union. Troops from Rwanda, Gambia, Tanzania, South Africa, Egypt and Algeria are expected to join the deployment.