Sudan hunts for kidnapped UN staffer
El Fasher - Sudanese forces were conducting a manhunt in the north Darfur state capital El Fasher on Friday after gunmen kidnapped a UN staffer during a visit by Security Council ambassadors.
The abduction of the civilian working for the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping force in the restive western region of Africa's largest nation was the first to hit the city, although there have been thefts and carjackings in the past, a spokesman for the force said.
"The Sudanese authorities put out an all-points bulletin and started an immediate manhunt," spokesman Kemal Saiki said.
"Sudanese police have stepped up security at checkpoints in all El Fasher."
Saiki said that some four or five gunmen broke into a house where UN staff were based at nighfall on Thursday and abducted two of the four people in the building at the time.
"They tied them and took them away with one of the Unamid cars that was there," he said.
"As they were getting away, one of the Unamid workers succeeded in escaping. He opened the door and jumped out."
Saiki said it was unclear who was responsible for the kidnapping.
"We have no indication of the motives. We have no indication of their identities," he said.
Britain's ambassador to the United Nations, Mark Lyall Grant, who was among the 15 envoys visiting El Fasher on Thursday and Friday, said he did not think the abduction was linked to their presence.
"It highlights the general security situation in El Fasher and in Darfur," he said.
The peacekeeping force has around 1 000 foreign personnel in El Fasher, 600 of them at a military base in the city, Darfur's historic capital.
Saiki said that plans were afoot to move more of the staff to the base where security was better.
The UN envoys were in Darfur to raise concerns about renewed clashes in the region where the United Nations estimates about 300 000 people have died since 2003. The Khartoum government puts the death toll at 10 000.
Hundreds of supporters of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir gave a hostile reception to the envoys in El Fasher, briefly preventing them from leaving the airport.
Bashir faces an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide over his Arab-dominated government's scorched earth response to the rebellion by ethnic minorities in the region.