Another peacekeeper killed in Darfur

Thursday, July 17, 2008

UNITED NATIONS -- Gunmen in Darfur shot and killed another United Nations-African Union peacekeeper Wednesday, just as the U.N. Security Council voted to condemn the killing of seven Darfur peacekeepers a week ago as a possible war crime.

The latest attack left a Nigerian company commander dead in Forobaranga in West Darfur while he was on patrol not far from a U.N.-A.U. peacekeeping camp, U.N. officials said.

Last week seven U.N.-AU peacekeepers were killed and at least another 19 wounded in Darfur during an ambush by about 200 gunmen on horseback and in sport utility vehicles.

The council Wednesday strongly condemned the July 8 attack as "premeditated, deliberate and intended to inflict casualties," and said that attacks on U.N. peacekeepers during armed conflicts "can constitute war crimes."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the council he still set the goal of doubling the number of peacekeeping troops to 80 percent of its authorized strength by year's end.

As of June there were 11,359 personnel in Darfur -- two-thirds of them soldiers -- as part of the peacekeeping mission, which is authorized to have 26,000 troops, police, civilians and other personnel, Ban reported.

Fighting erupted in Darfur in 2003 when ethnic African rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated central government, accusing it of discrimination.

With the U.N.-A.U. peacekeeping mission's mandate set to expire at the end of this month, the council debated Wednesday extending the Darfur mission for another year. Such an extension is expected to be granted two weeks from now.

The talks come just days after an International Criminal Court prosecutor at The Hague, Netherlands, asked judges for an arrest warrant against Sudan's president on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, filed 10 charges against Omar Hassan al-Bashir related to a campaign of extermination the U.N. says has claimed 300,000 lives and driven 2.5 million people from their homes. Moreno-Ocampo said survivors are preyed upon by government-backed janjaweed Arab militia and regular troops.

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