UN presses Sudan on security

2010-10-08 12:05

El Fasher – The United Nations ambassadors pressed the Sudanese authorities to do more to ensure the safety of aid workers and peacekeepers in Darfur on Friday after gunmen abducted a UN staffer.

The 15 Security Council envoys, who were in Darfur to express UN concern about renewing fighting between government troops and ethnic minority rebels in the western region, met North Darfur state Governor Othman Mohammed Yusef Kabbir.

Britain's UN ambassador, Mark Lyall Grant, said the envoys had told Kabbir of their concern for the civilian employee of the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur (Unamid) who was kidnapped at nightfall on Thursday.

"One of the reasons for the council being in Darfur was to highlight its underlying concern about security, including for aid workers and peacekeepers," Lyall Grant said after the meeting.

Thursday's abduction was the first to hit Darfur peacekeepers in El Fasher, the region's historic capital, 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," spokesperson Kemal Saiki said.

"Sudanese police have stepped up security at checkpoints in all El Fasher."

Saiki said four or five gunmen broke into a house where UN staff were based and abducted two of the four people there at the time.

No indication of  the motives

"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.

The peacekeeping force has around 1 000 foreign personnel in El Fasher, 600 of them at a military base there.

Saiki said plans were afoot to move more of the staff to the base where security was better.

The British ambassador said he did not think the abduction was directly linked to the visit by Security Council representatives.

"It highlights the general security situation in El Fasher and in Darfur," Lyall Grant said.

Noisy protest

For a second straight day, supporters of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir held a noisy protest against the arrest warrant issued for him by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide over his government's handling of the Darfur conflict.

Some 200 demonstrators gathered outside the state government building where the UN envoys were meeting the governor chanting "down, down with the ICC."

The governor accused the international community of politicising the Darfur conflict and called on the Security Council ambassadors to take steps to adopt a more neutral stance.

"You see with one eye instead of two, you hear with one ear instead of two," Kabbir said.

Since ethnic minority rebels first rose up against the Arab-dominated Khartoum regime in 2003, about 300 000 people have died and 2.7 million people fled their homes, according to UN estimates.

The government puts the death toll at 10 000.