Darfur abducted UNAfrican Union blue helmets released unharmed

17 August 2010Two Jordanian police advisers serving with the joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur, who were abducted on Saturday, were freed today in the south of the war-ravaged Sudanese region. The two officers had been walking to a transport dispatch point 100 metres from their residence in the Almatar area of Nyala, the capital of South Darfur state, when they were seized by unidentified armed men. After being released in the city of Kass today, they were immediately transported to the hospital of the mission, known as UNAMID, in Nyala, where they underwent a medical examination. The police advisers appeared to be unharmed and in good health. “We are thankful to have our colleagues back with us,” said Mohamed B. Yonis, UNAMID’s Deputy Joint Special Representative. “They appear to be in good spirits and I commend the courage they have shown during this ordeal.” The peacekeepers’ release comes on the heels of meetings held yesterday between Mr. Yonis and a joint Government-UNAMID task force created to resolve the issue. “We are very appreciative of the Government’s support in securing their freedom,” the UNAMID official said. Authorities today pledged to press ahead with efforts to capture the perpetrators and bring them to justice. This incident is the latest in a series of attacks against UNAMID personnel in recent months, including the ambush last month of peacekeepers on patrol in West Darfur that resulted in injuries to seven blue helmets, as well as another ambush in June in the same region that killed three soldiers and seriously wounded a fourth. Yesterday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed his continued concern over the string of incidents that have contributed to the deterioration of the situation in Darfur, where nearly seven years of fighting has killed at least 300,000 people and driven 2.7 million others from their homes. “Continued attacks on UNAMID peacekeepers and abductions and mistreatment of UN staff and humanitarian workers will only aggravate the situation,” Mr. Ban said in a statement issued by his spokesperson. The abduction also comes amid recent violence and ongoing tensions at the Kalma camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in South Darfur following the latest round of peace talks in the Qatari capital, Doha, aimed at bringing an end to the Darfur conflict. In his statement yesterday, the Secretary-General called on the Sudanese Government to “apprehend and bring to justice those who attack UN staff and humanitarian workers and to take all possible measures to ensure that humanitarian access to all Sudanese remains open and humanitarian space protected.”He also voiced appreciation for the restoration of some humanitarian access to Kalma.The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has reported that an inter-agency assessment team visited the camp yesterday, reporting that Kalma residents have confirmed that the security situation has improved overall and are thankful to peacekeepers for increased patrols and other measures to protect civilians.Also yesterday, a humanitarian team delivered urgently-needed medicines and enough fuel to operate pumps and meet water needs in the camp.However, relief access was denied today, affecting plans to assess additional humanitarian needs to determine what kind of assistance is necessary. read more